Design Principles

PUC schools are high achievement/high support schools that demonstrate high levels of success. All PUC schools are committed to graduating all students, including those who are academically struggling, while simultaneously preparing all students for college-ready standards and success. Our schools feature a rigorous college-preparatory program of study beginning in sixth grade that includes enrollment in college classes by the senior year in high school. Each school is characterized by a strong college-going culture and the following design principles.

Design Principle #1: Academic Program

An Untracked Academic Program that prepares Every Student for College Work

Our powerful educational program enables every student to graduate fully prepared for college work. Beginning in grade 6, all students pursue a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum. At the same time, instruction is individualized to connect to each student’s particular level of development – including English language learners and special education students. There is no tracking. Instead, there are small classes, supportive relationships with faculty, and extended instructional periods. The middle school curriculum focuses on literacy to address the significant academic and English- language skill gaps of entering students and prepare them for the demanding high school program. A rich and varied arts curriculum is infused into the academic program for all students. At the high school level, the academic program is augmented by student enrollment in college classes.

  1. Honors-level program of study for all
  2. Standards-based curriculum that holds all students to high expectations
  3. Engaging instruction that emphasizes learning through inquiry
  4. Academic catch-up program combining basic skills with advanced concepts
  5. Differentiated instruction that meets the learning needs of each student
  6. Immersion for English language learners and inclusion for special education students
  7. School-wide literacy program across the curriculum
  8. Daily schedule and yearly calendar structured to extend learning
  9. Scaffolded exposure to college- level instruction and college courses

Design Principle #2: School Culture

A School Culture that Sets Students Up for Success

While the careful design of the academic program is important, it is not the sole driver of student success. Achieving the mission depends equally upon establishing a school community in which everyone shares a deep commitment to one another’s success. At PUC Schools, collaboration is the norm. Faculty, students, families, and community partners work together to solve problems and improve results. Teachers and students are empowered to take risks and are not afraid to admit mistakes or ask for help. Such an environment encourages effort and persistence from even the most discouraged learners who enter the school.

This demanding but nurturing culture sets PUC Schools apart from other schools that provide a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum for underserved students but lose many students who are discouraged by the academic difficulty. PUC’s holding power- its ability to deliver a rigorous college- preparatory program without significant attrition- is perhaps its most note worthy accomplishment.

  1. Clear student behavioral norms based on professional norms
  2. Formal introduction and mentoring of new students
  3. Faculty commitment to “break down” complex material
  4. Multiple modes of academic support
  5. Consistent adult modeling of core values
  6. Faculty commitment to motivate and inspire students
  7. Construction of peer culture that supports each other’s success
  8. Family involvement that supports student success
  9. University & college partnerships that reinforce college-going culture

Design Principle #3: Organizational Practices

Formal Organizational Practices that Support the Academic Program and School Culture

PUC has implemented a set of formal organizational practices that support the execution of the academic program and sustain the culture of excellence. These practices allow staff to maintain a disciplined focus on mission and results while building the organization’s capacity to adapt to new circumstances and learn from mistakes.

  1. Data- driven approach to curriculum, instruction, and school design
  2. Hiring and development of faculty with skills and values to fulfill school mission
  3. Shared leadership and collective decision-making
  4. Student role in shaping school direction
  5. Use of external standards to prevent erosion of internal standards
  6. Development of common tools to ensure consistent academic expectations
  7. Multi-faceted staff development that continuously improves teaching quality
  8. Use of school- wide literacy program to focus staff on achieving school mission
  9. Formal organizational arrangements that maximize college and university partnerships
  10. Deployment of staff and other resources in flexible and creative ways
  11. Leaders who serve as “keepers of the flame,” reinforcing mission and culture