CWC-SL is a free public school committed to socio-economic, cultural and racial diversity. We provide a challenging, experiential learning environment to develop students’ confidence, potential, and individual responsibility as true citizens of the world.
This month’s spotlight is on Citizens of the World Charter School-Silver Lake (CWC-SL). CWC-SL is K-6 public charter school founded in 2012/13 as an alternative to one’s assigned public school. Admission is based a lottery, which is conducted annually. This year’s lottery is scheduled for March 15, 2016 at 6pm and will be held at the school’s campus, 5620 De Longpre, 90028. You must apply by March 1st, 2016 to be included in the lottery. The lottery is weighted with preference given to founding parents, siblings of current students, students who qualify for reduced/free lunch and students who reside in the LAUSD district.
This year they are projecting 80 spots for Kindergarten, 15 spots for 1st grade, and a mere 20 openings for grades 2-6. To put your chances in perspective- last year they received 850 applications for all available spots. If you don’t receive a spot you are automatically put on the waitlist, which ‘moves very quickly’ during the Summer as applicants decline their offered spots. So if you don’t get in at first, all hope is not lost.
The tour was led by the principal, Dr. Ramona Patrick, who is also a founding parent. Dr. Patrick provided a very thoughtful overview of CWCSL’s philosophy and curriculum. The school is a diverse mix of many cultures including Latino, Asian, Russian, Black and White students and is also socioeconomically diverse with 50% of the children qualifying for a reduced /free lunch program. 12% of the children are specialty learners who are fully integrated.
CWCSL is a progressive school and their approach to learning is based on Piaget’s theory of constructivism, which argues that humans generate knowledge and meaning from an interaction between their experiences and their ideas. More simply put it’s a student centered approach- building knowledge off of what the children already know and are interested in. (This in contrast to the LAUSD’s traditional approach with a teacher leading a discussion based on their planned curriculum.) While the school is progressive in their approach to learning they are a public school and so their students must adhere to the same testing standards as all LAUSD public schools. The students take all the same Common Core tests that the LAUSD students take to ensure academic proficiency. Dr. Patrick reviewed the following curricula:
One of the unique things about CWCSL is that teachers complete a detailed evaluation of each student 4 times per year starting at the beginning. This way they know which part of the curriculum to emphasize with a student at any given time to achieve proficiency. Because the curriculum is flexible students get more of a customized approach than a typical LAUSD ‘teacher-centered’ environment. It seems to me like a nice balanced approach.
One of my favorite things about the school is their Peace Corners. Every classroom has a designated area called a peace corner that a student can go to when they need a break from the group—or just need to take some deep breaths and chill for a minute. It is not a punitive time out corner- the students are not sent there but rather can choose to go anytime they need a minute. I love the idea so much I’m going to implement one at home (I might never come out though).
One of my not favorite things is the school’s facilities. Charter schools are typically located in under utilized LAUSD school space. CWCSL is currently utilizing part of the Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood. The classrooms and gym and bathrooms are all fine and on par with other public schools I have toured. BUT the location is pretty janky. It’s right behind a Home Depot with all manner of workers for hire and just about block away is a sober living house which I happened to park outside of for the tour. It gave me a bit of pause—and I am pretty cool with the urban experience—my daughter’s preschool rents space inside a VERY urban LGBT/AA church just down the street from the homeless encampment on Prospect/Vermont where we routinely walk right past sometimes rough looking LGBT addicts smoking cigarettes outside the church’s entrance. It’s LA. It’s urban. It wouldn’t prevent me from sending my daughter there but it aint fancy, so just be aware. Dr. Patrick said they are actively searching for a new location—one that actually is IN Silver Lake, so if you have a little one the location will potentially be nicer/closer by the time your child attends.
Ok back to the good stuff- the student teacher ratio is an impressive 24:1 + TA. The classes felt smaller and more intimate than many schools I have visited. They emphasize the arts and physical education so the kids get Art and PE twice a week (more than LAUSD) and Spanish class once a week. They also offer a hot healthy lunch sourced by a local restaurant that sounded pretty tasty. There are after school enrichment offerings and care that extends to 6pm for a very reasonable cost. And best of all they don’t believe in tons of homework—about 10-30 minutes max. Please note that the time you save helping (doing?) your kids homework will be spent volunteering at the school. Each parent is required to pitch in 40 hours of work each year to improve the school/fundraise, etc. If you consider private elementary schools average $25k a year, 40 hours is not a bad tradeoff for a FREE modern progressive education. If it helps you could look at it as getting paid $625 an hour to volunteer. I’d take that hourly rate.
CWC-SL would be a great choice for many families who are looking for something other than a traditional school but not wanting to go private. Even though it’s not LAUSD I am sure it has its own set of politics (all schools do) and probably isn’t perfect (no school is) but I was impressed with what they have created in only 4 years. They already have plans in the works for an eventual junior high and high school (hurray!) and Dr. Patrick seems like a person who can lead them to greatness. I look forward to seeing the progress in the coming years.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please contact me. And of course, if you know anyone looking to make a move, please refer me.
Happy Valentines Day!