Model Programs and Practices
Name: Educate the Whole Child
At Prep, our belief is that it is necessary to educate the whole child by focusing on individualized exploration, risk-taking, building character and community, and providing rigorous instruction in academics, arts, and 21st-century skills. Our aim is not to educate just the student of today, but the entire person who will go on to become an agent of change and growth in our shared community.
Prep’s LCAP lists only three goals, but they’re lofty: All Students will Achieve, Support student, family and school engagement, and Create spaces and opportunities for student achievement. We approach every single one of these goals with our minds fully set on the “whole child” - not a set of data points, but a young person who deserves to feel safe, to feel that they belong, and to know that they can succeed. There are several key methods with which we approach our “whole child” goal: character development, academic support and advancement teams, broad course offerings, and a generous application of joy and love.
In our school, “all students will achieve” is not an academic-only goal; we celebrate our students as people of character and intentionally nurture this through explicit instruction, modeling, and publicly recognizing the character that students display. We prove to our students that they matter to us by holding them to high standards of school and classroom culture. And when they don’t meet those standards, we intervene lovingly, with Restorative Justice practices and supportive solutions to troubling behavior that may include counseling, but always involve the family. Every teacher on staff receives training and coaching in PBIS methods, Restorative Justice, Calm Classroom practices, and culturally and linguistically responsive instruction. In addition, we hold regular meetings to discuss office referrals, whole-staff. We analyze this data to ensure that every minute of the school day is used to support students and achieve our goal of developing the behaviors and habits that will see them through to success.
Academically, students are supported by a robust staff of five dedicated SpEd teachers, along with two full-time interventionists that support both SpEd and general education students. We also provide intensive support to English Language Learners through small group intervention and coaching. Every teacher provides weekly and by-appointment tutoring, our after-school program provides seven tutors to assist students, and we are consistently in contact with families. When a student is not yet successful, we step in and step up the support. This process begins with tutoring conversations and family contact, but students are referred to the Student Success Team if a teacher, team of teachers or parent feels the need to develop an intervention plan for specific areas of growth in a student’s academics or behavior. The team is comprised of the teachers, an administrator, support staff, the family, and, in nearly all cases, the student. The team uses a collaborative model to identify and develop interventions and supports. The process emphasizes that early intervention for struggling students is a key part of our mission to achieve excellence and educate the whole child.
Students who are academically advanced can take the opportunity to leap into more challenging courses, knowing that they will be supported as they soar. In Math, students advance enough that we routinely offer Geometry and Algebra 2 classes, supported by student engagement in the summer Jaime Escalante Program. In ELA, we offer a Pre-AP course that supplements the traditional class with chances to engage with literature and language at a college level, all within the safe confines of our campus. For students interested in STEM fields, we offer coding and robotics, digital design, and an ever-evolving array of offerings.
Adhering to our LCAP goal of creating spaces and opportunities for student achievement, we pride ourselves on finding areas where every single student can excel -- in a combination of academics, arts, athletics, technology, and leadership. Students take the reins in our family conferences during which they share academic artifacts and reflection pieces that show both their aces and areas of growth. The Prep Student Government arranges events that bring together the whole school. Our athletics teams require students to maintain both a high GPA and respectful behavior. Prepsters manage their own growth in guided artistic explorations in, among many other avenues, painting, improv theatre, digital arts manipulation, and stringed instruments: violin, guitar, and even ukulele.
In our nationally recognized visual arts program, student artists create everything from public pieces displayed in Downtown Los Angeles to functioning skateboards. Our theatre class does not restrain itself to reading and performing famous plays, but helps students to create their own works of literature. Tunefully strummed guitars echo in the hallway every day. Our arts program is a powerful source of student achievement, but it’s more than the arts that allow children to succeed creatively. Our core subject teachers engage students’ creativity with Design Thinking projects, authentic audiences, community outreach events, partnerships with sister schools, and in a thousand other ways. Students are enabled to safely explore at Prep. Outside of our core curriculum areas, we offer diverse course offerings that include visual and performing arts, physical education, advanced academic programs, and a catalog of dozens of passion-project enrichments. Every Prepster participates in student-selected enrichment courses for four days out of the week. Courses span from an award-winning cheer team, LEGO Robotics, KIPP Runs, Folklorico dance, Mariachi, choir, basketball, chess, through dozens of other diverse opportunities. By participating in enrichment courses, students develop new passions and share their experiences with the community in public performances and competitions or simply via their own zestful engagement.
We build up student self-image with these many paths to success and develop their social capital with off-campus field lessons. These lesson expose our students to events and activities that they may otherwise never encounter in their youth. We send students camping in Utah, overnight to an aquarium, bowling, ice skating, to baseball games, and even to the opera. These opportunities not only allow students to celebrate their achievements, but also to nurture the Prepster of the future who, encountering more privileged peers, may not otherwise have enough common experiences to form a relationship. Because we believe in educating the whole child, we make sure that we consider the future of that child carefully.
Prep is a school never satisfied with “satisfactory” and, to that end, we constantly strive to check in on our results. Every family takes a yearly School Climate Survey that anonymously evaluates the school. On this survey, 90% of families indicate that they feel that their child is safe at school. On the same survey, administered apart from their parents, students indicate that they feel safe at a rate of 80%. These teens, who must face the daily challenges of raging hormones, difficult coursework, and navigating the potentially shark-infested waters of adolescent friendship, these same teens report that they overwhelmingly feel safe at their school.
Prep’s annual School Climate Survey asks all stakeholders to rate how well the school is doing in building a positive learning environment and preparing students for college and career. We appreciate the glowing comments we receive, but we act on the corrective feedback. After Prep received feedback that parents sought more volunteer opportunities, the Parents in Action Committee (PAC) was developed through a partnership with The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Prep and MALDEF organized families to create a platform through which our parents can voice their ideas, volunteer, and learn more about what is going on at school. Another way we welcome feedback from our families is through the quarterly “Coffee with the Principal” meeting, a town hall meeting between families and school leadership. Our focus on the whole child reminds us that every child has some family with a voice that matters; we work hard to monitor those voices and act on their needs.
Results and Outcomes:
Love and belonging permeate every corner of our campus and students feel it. When we talk about safety at Prep, we do not refer just to the physical environment, but also to the social, emotional, and intellectual climate of the school. Students are able to take risks here because they know that they will be supported and cherished, regardless of the outcome. We know that we are successful by the number of smiles and “please walk!” reminders as students race to their next class or enrichment opportunity. We see that our efforts to educate the whole child are effective by our high attendance and low suspension rate, our outstanding assessment results, our powerfully successful graduates, and by the number of alumni who come back, year after year, to visit, volunteer, and teach.
It’s not only our graduates who see success. Our current students have an extremely low suspension rate, especially when compared to other area schools. Prep students are suspended at a rate of only .8%, a rate we’ve maintained and improved upon over the years. Our attendance reaches an average of 98% on a daily basis and our rate of chronic absenteeism is only 4%, compared to our neighborhood middle schools, whose recently improved rates are a whopping 9 and 10%, respectively.
Our students attend school every day and that is one of the many factors that has helped them to consistently outscore neighborhood schools on the SBAC assessment. In school year 2017-2018, our neighboring middle schools scored an average of 35% Proficient in ELA and 25% Proficient in Math. KIPP LA Prep outperformed them dramatically with an average proficiency of 70% in Math and 72% in ELA. Although we know test scores do not define our students, we know that it will set up our students for success to and through college. Our alumni frequently enroll in honors and AP courses in high school and their high SBAC scores help to secure those opportunities for them.
Our focus on the whole child results in alumni who succeed. With guidance from the KIPP Through College team, we have seen 94% of our alumni graduate high school. Of those graduates, approximately 84% matriculate to a four-year college or university, while 70% of Prep alumni are persisting in college or universities. Our students are also invited to support programs throughout their entire academic career, from high school and college tours to career networking “mocktails” with working professionals in college. Through these programs and individual support counseling, we’re ensuring that the children we grow through eighth grade continue on to become successful adults.
Though our eighth graders leave our site in June of their final year, they are never fully gone. Pictures of our alumni adorn the hallways, posted next to the classrooms named after their colleges. Our current students see themselves reflected in these images. Alumni Prepsters frequently come back to visit and volunteer. One of the proudest proofs that we produce great results is the alumni who have returned to KIPP as staff at our school and in our sister sites. Perhaps our favorites, though, are the six Prep alumni who have come back to teach here, where they were brought up. All of these Prep alumni staff are proud college graduates or students who have returned to enrich their community. Our present students see these Prep alumni and recognize themselves. Current Prepsters are inspired by alumni successes, knowing that they, too, are well on the way “to and through.