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Four more charter schools to open in South L.A.

Group announces grants totaling more than $4 million. A key goal is to send graduates to high-ranking colleges.

August 17, 2007|Carla Rivera | Times Staff Writer

The Inner City Education Foundation announced Thursday that it had received more than $4 million in grants and would open four new charter schools in South Los Angeles this fall.

With the new middle and high schools, the Inner City group will have nine charter campuses operating within the Los Angeles Unified School District. When full enrollment is reached, the nine schools will serve 4,000 K-12 students; the group's five existing charter schools have waiting lists that exceed 5,000 students.

"The momentum we're building is just tremendous, and the funders recognized that we're moving from success to success," said Michael D. Piscal, founder and chief executive of the group.

The contributions consist of $1.8 million from NewSchools Venture Fund, $1.45 million from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and $920,000 from the Walton Family Foundation.

The Inner City charter group was founded in 1994 with a mission to provide a college preparatory curriculum to under-served communities primarily in Southwest Los Angeles. A specific goal is to prepare students to attend and compete academically at the nation's 100 top-ranked colleges and universities.

The schools have a particular focus on improving students' writing skills, Piscal said, but also offer arts-rich programs, with a combined youth orchestra and acclaimed student jazz band.

Piscal said surveys found that the public high schools serving Southwest Los Angeles, including Crenshaw, Dorsey and Manual Arts, annually produced only about 300 students combined who graduated from college.

"Our overall mission is create 2,000 college graduates a year," he said. "We came up with 581,000 people living just in Southwest Los Angeles. Where are the doctors, lawyers, teachers, principals and accountants going to come from to serve those 581,000 people?"

Piscal said that on the standardized test scores released this week, 63% of Inner City's View Park Preparatory Charter High School students scored proficient or advanced in English, compared with 43% of students statewide. The school, whose student body is 97% African American, graduated its first senior class in June, with all 71 graduates headed to college, 65 of them to four-year universities.

Charter schools are independent, publicly funded schools that are allowed to operate more independently than traditional public schools in exchange for boosting student achievement. The Inner City campuses join a burgeoning number of charters in California, with more than 600 operating in the state and more than 100 within Los Angeles Unified.

L.A. Unified officials said about 15 new charters were expected to open this fall.

The Inner City Education Foundation's new Lou Dantzler Middle and High schools will open at the Challenger Boys and Girls Club at Vermont Avenue and 51st Street.

Thurgood Marshall Middle School will be housed at Liberty Baptist Church on 51st Place, and Thurgood Marshall High School will use space at the African American Unity Center at 53rd Street and Vermont.

All the schools will open with 100 students each in the sixth and ninth grades.

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carla.rivera@latimes.com

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