Over the past 15 years our center at UCLA has grown into a community of more than 200 educators working across multiple programs: two graduate credential programs, Teacher Education Program (TEP) and Principal Leadership Institute (PLI), and many professional development initiatives.
Together, we work to transform public schooling to create a more just, equitable, and humane society. We believe that this work is an enduring feature of our democracy and that it occurs within and across multiple communities—of teachers, students, parents, community members, elected officials, researchers and others engaged in democratic life. Together, these communities transform public schooling through inquiry and change, by asking questions and solving problems, fueled by passionate resolve and persistent effort.
Center X Roots
A brief history of Center X and its work to transform public schooling
Our center is called Center X to capture both the intersection of research and practice as well as our roots as an activist community. First conceived in 1992 as a result of the upheaval and self-examination stemming from Los Angeles’ Rodney King verdict uprisings, Center X strives to challenge the status quo that perpetuates inequity and poor educational practice. As a community, we are working to enact our ideals—“making the rhetoric real,” as the center’s founder Jeannie Oakes framed our effort in 1996. We believe that transformative work must tackle head on the deep social inequalities manifest in schools as gaps in educational opportunities and achievement. We do not believe that these gaps or inequities will be solved by schools alone, yet we remain committed to public schooling as one of the best democratic spaces for working to become a better, more just society.
Education in Troubled Times
In 1993, when the University of California's Advisory Committee on Professional Education released Education in Troubled Times: A Call to Action, Center X emerged as the response of UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (GSE&IS). The report emphasized the inequitable circumstances reflected in American public schools and stated:
Changes within the cultures of all our educational institutions are required. Any effort to transform teacher education and reform urban schools must also transform the relationship between the university and the schools and make fundamental changes in the culture of the university itself.
As a result of the report, the GSE&IS focus changed—guided by principles of social justice—to serve and collaborate with the lowest-resourced and underserved schools in the Los Angeles community, specifically East Los Angeles, Pico Union downtown area, South Los Angeles, and the Crenshaw District.
Teacher Education Program
Combining research-based, culturally responsive curricula with focused efforts on recruiting teachers of color, Center X’s Teacher Education Program (TEP) began in 1994 as an intensive two-year program leading to state certification and a master’s degree. In their first “novice” year, teacher candidates engage in coursework and student teaching. The next “resident” year consists of full-time classroom teaching in a partnership high-poverty urban school, supported by a faculty advisor, and the completion of a master’s inquiry project. In 1999, we expanded the program to include an intern-based credential for teachers currently working in schools. To date, Center X’s Teacher Education Programs have prepared more than 1,500 teachers for placements in Los Angeles’ hardest to staff urban schools.
Principal Leadership Institute
In 2000, the Principal Leadership Institute (PLI) at UCLA and UC Berkeley was chartered by the Governor of California to “make a contribution towards positive change in urban schools in need of improvement…and instill in participants the motivation to withstand pressure and make a difference.” Now in its eleventh year, PLI is refocusing and deepening its responsibility for urban school transformation—preparing aspiring principals to be change agents within urban school districts. Specifically, UCLA’s PLI prepares educators to be social justice leaders who advocate for quality learning opportunities, improve teaching and learning, promote educational achievement for all students, create democratic and culturally-responsive learning environments, and build partnerships with parents and community groups. PLI students engage in 15 months of course work and field-based learning experiences, culminating in a master’s project that demonstrates candidates’ competency to be transformative instructional leaders. To date, PLI has prepared more than 350 social justice leaders.
Professional Development & Partnerships
Center X also engages thousands of practicing and accomplished educators through a portfolio of professional development opportunities, including five California Subject Matter Projects (Writing, Reading and Literature, Mathematics, Science, and History-Geography), the Computer Science Project, the UCLA Parent Project, and a National Boards Project, supporting educators pursuing National Board Certification. Since its founding the center’s professional development work has developed district partnerships to support teachers serving the lowest achieving students. These partnerships are not just about providing teachers with professional development; they are about working with the district, school administrators, teachers, parents and students to develop a rigorous and caring college-going culture—one focused on learning high-level knowledge and skills and developing students’ identities as readers, writers, mathematicians, scientists and so on. Given the intensity of this work, the Center engages with a small number of local low-performing districts to leverage change. We work across content domains in professional development with teachers while placing our TEP and PLI candidates in these same schools. We continue this work with urban schools to create rich opportunities for student learning.