April 14, 2006

The Preuss School at UCSD: A good place for Latinos

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

There’s a charter school in San Diego where 90% of its class of 2005 graduates enrolled in four year colleges and where 58% of its student population was Latino.

Too good to be true?

Not really. If you don’t believe that there’s a school in San Diego where Latino students are actually preparing to enter college and that they’re being urged to take Advanced Placement courses, that they’re constantly being challenged to strive for academic excellence, and that, at the same time, they’re being encouraged to celebrate their cultural identity, think again.

It does exist.

It’s the Preuss School at UCSD, a 6-12 charter school that aims to increase college attendance in students in low-income households.

A just released report, conducted by researchers at UCSD’s Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence (CREATE), evaluates the success of the Preuss School by comparing the graduating class of 2005’s preparation for and admission to a four year college, the major goal of the Preuss School.

In order to conduct the report, Preuss’s Class of 2005 was compared to other schools in the San Diego Unified School District. Also, another comparison group were the students who didn’t win the lottery to attend Preuss.

The report has some very positive findings when it comes to Latino students, said Professor Bud Mehan, director of CREATE.

“The college enrollment rate for Latinos is much, much lower than 90% in other schools in the county,” he said.

Indeed, attending the Preuss School enables students to successfully complete more college prerequisites and to attend college in greater numbers than those students who didn’t attend Preuss, the report states.

The school is “absolutely preparing low-income students to go to a university,” Mehan said.

Preuss students are selected through a process of application and lottery. Eligibility is based on: student is from a low-income family (per Federal school lunch criteria); student has no parent or guardian who has graduated from a 4-year college or university; student has the academic potential and motivation to benefit from an intensive college preparatory program.

Preuss 2004/05 demographics were: 59.5% Latino, 12.9% African American, 21.7% Asian, 6% White.

Another aspect of the school is that students cultural identity is very valued, Mehan said.

“The school helps students maintain their cultural identity. While at other schools the students’ culture is surpressed, here students get to express their language and cultural knowledge. In fact, they’re encouraged to do this.”

In addition, the school offers all students a rigorous college preparatory curriculum and acedemic supports that include a longer school day, a longer school year, intensive tutoring, mentoring, counseling, and parent education opportunities.

Preuss students interviewed for the report said that they received more consistent academic and social support (such as academic counseling, SAT test preparation, and support for college funding) for college than did comparison group students.

Bernice Ramirez was a senior in the Class of 2005 at Preuss School when she was interviewed by La Prensa San Diego in early 2005.

At that time, she had just received a $10,000 scholarship in a nationwide competition from the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.

Just like she had overcome all the adversities she had faced in her life, such as growing up without ever knowing her father and in a barrio where it is more common for young people to join gangs than to finish high school, Bernice was able to pull things together and managed to maintain a high grade point average in school.

Bernice said that part of her success was thanks to her attending the Preuss School at UCSD.

“I feel really good. I’ve received a lot of support from a lot of people,” Bernice said.

Bernice said she’s proud that, in addition to being a role model for her 14 year-old brother Joaquin, she might also inspire others from Barrio Logan to continue with their education.

“I think it’s important for people to know that it is possible,” she said. “My family has always struggled financially, but especially last year I didn’t have a lot of things at home. Today things are finally getting better”.

If you are a parent from a low-income family and would like to find out more on how your children can enroll in the Preuss School at UCSD, you can contact the school at: The Preuss School UCSD, 9500 Gilman Drive Dept. 0536, La Jolla 92093-0536, preussoffice@ucsd.edu.

Main Office (858) 658-7400 Fax (858) 658-0988. On the web: www.preuss.ucsd.edu

Applications are available in Spanish, too.

Return to the Frontpage