OAKLAND -- Filmmaker George Lucas' education organization has spotlighted an Upper Rockridge school for its approach to learning, one that encourages student collaboration.

In early December, Edutopia.org, the website produced by the George Lucas Education Foundation, published a feature on The College Preparatory School as part of its "Schools that Work Series." The private high school educates 360 students in grades nine through 12.

With it nationwide list of subscribers, Edutopia has given College Preparatory the kind of attention small, independent schools have trouble attracting, said Head of School Monique DeVane.

"It's always a delight and great fun to showcase the great teaching that happens here," she said.

According to Elana Leoni, Edutopia's social media marketing manager, the series has "received roughly 20,000 page views and people are also spending over four minutes on a page within this online package, which shows our audience is really digging deep into the content," she said in an email.

She also said Edutopia has an "e-newsletter list of 128,000 education change-makers, of which College Prep was the main feature for one issue."

The nonprofit College Preparatory's teaching method is grounded in the notion that students learn best when they bounce ideas off each other and put concepts into practice while also developing their own individual talents.

Edutopia writer Matthew Davis began his profile of the school by describing how one teacher took students outside with rope and chalk, asking them to bring to life geometric concepts discussed in class by drawing mathematically exact shapes on the ground. Davis explained how students in math and English courses are encouraged to solve problems or discuss the meaning of texts before sharing with the teacher.

"It's an affirmation of the idea that teaching is always about content, but it's also about the way that you are developing their skills," DeVane said of collaboration. "It helps them learn how to learn better. (The method) transfers to any discipline or any setting."

Dr. Vanessa Vega, Edutopia's research analyst, explained why the school received the national recognition.

"Discussion-based English Language Arts and collaborative, problem-based math have been shown by extensive research to support student learning, and these practices can be replicated widely and align with Common Core standards," she said in a statement.

Debbie Mitchell, of Montclair, sent both of her children to College Preparatory. Son Jack is a senior and daughter Chelsea graduated and is a junior at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

"It felt like it was a school that had a really nice combination of academic excellence and challenge, and an environment where kids were able to truly be authentically who they were," Mitchell said.

Of the collaboration, Mitchell said, "Students gain this confidence by sharing their ideas and being respected for their ideas. There are so many different ways of thinking about things and it really helps emphasize and enrich the critical thinking that goes on there."

The majority of College Preparatory's students, 38 percent, hail from Oakland and Piedmont, while 31 percent come from Contra Costa County and 22 percent are from Berkeley or areas near there. All students go on to college. Tuition is $34,000 per year, but about a quarter of the students receive some form of financial assistance.

FYI
To read Edutopia's profile on The College Preparatory School, visit www.edutopia.org/stw-collaborative-learning. To learn more about the school, visit college-prep.org.