The number of students graduating from Los Angeles Unified School District schools is growing, however, not all those schools are getting their students to college after graduation. Last year’s statistics show that the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies was the most successful comprehensive high school — 86% had enrolled in a two-year or four-year college by April 2017.

The data are from National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit education research organization that tracks students through college.

Source: Los Angeles Unified School District

5 of these schools are situated in San Fernando Valley, and the rest are spread throughout L.A. The schools all have high graduation rates, and most have some sort of application or lottery process to get in. Two — Middle College High and Harbor Teacher Prep Academy — have selective — admissions based on applications and are located on colleges campuses. Another, Northridge Academy High, has a partnership with Cal State Northridge. Five are full magnet schools, which choose students based on weighted lottery systems.

Magnet schools have themes, smaller class sizes and receive some extra funding from the district. They also serve fewer English learners, low-income students and special education students overall than traditional public schools.

The Sherman Oaks campus, which serves grades 4-12, is one of the most in-demand magnets in the district and is one of the first magnets the district founded as part of its desegregation plan in the 1970s.

Between 80% and 90% of Sherman Oaks CES graduates enroll in college each year, said Principal Martin Price. He attributes the high number to such factors as a college-going culture instilled from elementary school, students’ ability to take community college classes in high school, and tools like Naviance, software designed to help students with career and college planning.

Other schools on the list also have an element of opting in. Social Justice Humanitas Academy is a pilot school, which means it has more freedom than a regular school in deciding its staffing, budgeting, and scheduling. It shares its campus with other schools at the Cesar Chavez Learning Academies campus in San Fernando, and students from the neighborhood rank which schools in the area they’d like to attend. Students sometimes arrive at the school, which serves grades 9-12, assuming they’re bad at some subjects, said Principal Jose Navarro. He considers it part of his job to get them out of that mindset, he said. “We are three traffic signals from the projects here in Pacoima,” Navarro said. “The trauma of poverty, the trauma of racism, is real. It affects our ability to learn.”​ D grades don’t exist at the San Fernando school — it’s A, B, C or F, so all graduates are eligible for Cal State University classes, Navarro said. The academy also has more class requirements than L.A. Unified students need to graduate. “We’ve never let kids go home early,” Navarro said.

Principals say that the important thing in high schools is to make college a visible part of them. 

Source: Los Angeles Unified School District

At Sherman Oaks, the college counselor encourages students to broaden their views beyond Cal State Northridge and UCLA, Price said, improving their chances of getting into colleges that are the right fit for them. “The idea is there are lots of colleges out there that have similar majors and they might be a little further from home but they might offer a new perspective,” Price said.

The school also celebrates its students’ successes, making college visible. “We do a big celebration in April and May when the kids get their acceptance letters,” Price said. “We have them cut out either a star or the school emblem and put their name on it.” Seniors put them up all over the school arcade. For Navarro, it’s equally important to make sure younger students see the successes of older ones. At the academy, freshman lockers are placed next to senior ones, and students decorate the seniors’ lockers with college names and mascots as acceptances roll in, he said.

Staying in college

Of course, just because they head off to college doesn’t mean students will stick it out. Only 23% of L.A. Unified 2010 graduates got college degrees within six years, according to National Student Clearinghouse data. Most students from these 10 schools do tend to stay in college after their first year, according to a recent analysis of Clearinghouse data on 2013 graduates, from the Los Angeles Educational Research Institute.

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