University Preparation School: Curriculum Development Service Learning « Center on Educational Governance (CEG)

University Preparation School: Curriculum Development Service Learning

Practice Area: School-University Partnerships

University Preparation School at CSU Channel Islands:
Curriculum Development Service Learning

University Preparation School
at CSU Channel Islands

Camarillo, California
Founded 2002
490 students
Grades Pre-K-6
Site-based (n/a)
52% Hispanic, 38% White, 3% Asian, 2% African-American, Other 5%
33% English language learners
10% Special needs
42% Receive subsidized meals
Teachers not part of collective bargaining unit

Source: Center on Educational Governance, 2006.

Each semester about 35 students from CSUCI come to University Prep for service learning projects. This school/ university partnership enriches the school’s curriculum, teaching the PreK-5 children about poetry, psychology and nutrition, among other topics.

The university students are required to write about their service learning project for the CSUCI class which assigned it. They also have modeled service
learning for elementary students who, once they graduate to the new affiliated charter middle school, will conduct service learning projects of their own.


The charter school was meant to be located right on the CSUCI campus, but a $25 budget shortfall forced the school to open in an existing facility four miles from campus and to postpone the plans for a middle school. This has limited the partnership possibilities. Still, when the doors of both schools opened in 2002, CSUCI student teachers were at University Prep as planned.

Service learning projects grew organically out of this school/university partnership a year later. Growth potential is considerable as the university establishes itself and as its faculty continues to learn about the charter school and its ability to host service learning projects.

Each school has a liaison employed to communicate with the other and to disseminate information about the other on their respective campuses.


Direct funding for the service learning partnership does not come from the charter school budget.

The charter school’s liaison to CSUCI is paid for two days’ office work per week, but most of her time is spent as student teacher coordinator, not service learning. She meets with her CSUCI counterpart about five hours per month to discuss service learning; the principal joins as needed.

Basic facilities at the charter school — classrooms during the day and after school — are required for service learning. Depending on future project topics, such as science or theater, other facility needs may present themselves.

Lessons Learned

One of the main challenges, the principal has said, is that University Prep and CSUCI are both start-ups. The charter school principal and the liaisons agreed that the it is important to establish buy-in from all parties before implementation and that support systems were necessary to assist the collaboration. They also learned that the university liaison to the charter school needed to publicize service learning on the campus.

The four-mile distance between the campuses has created unexpected scheduling and transportation challenges. If professors could walk their classes to the charter school, service learning projects would be more attractive.

Some CSUCI students didn’t know how to teach elementary school children effectively. After a few failures, both CSUCI and University Prep decided to offer professional development training for the university students.

University Prep teachers have requested some professional development time to learn more about CSUCI’s disciplines and courses in greater detail, in order to be more active partners in creating service learning projects.


Service learning courses, including those held after school, have been a big hit with the charter school children, according to the school.

A main goal of the charter school was for its students to see themselves as part of the bigger picture of education, with college in their future. This has certainly been achieved, according to parents and teachers, who say the service learning courses have boosted the children’s motivation for other coursework as well.

Teachers have noted that the projects have enriched their current classes and have provided ideas for future curriculum.


Center on Educational Governance
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
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