Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies
Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies is the largest magnet school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, serving approximately 2,100 students in grades 4-12. Students are admitted through a non-merit-based application process. By court order, the school enrolls 40 percent minority students and 60 percent white students. In July 2007, it received a six-year term of accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. U.S. News & World Report named Sherman Oaks one of America’s Best High Schools in 2010, awarding it a silver medal, which places it in the top 300 (or 5 percent) of high schools nationwide.
In 2006 and 2007, the school received the California Title I Achievement Award. In 2008 and 2009, the school received the Steve Allen Excellence in Education Award from the Economic Alliance. It was named a School of Distinction by the Magnet Schools of America in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The state has ranked Sherman Oaks a 10-10 school, the highest state distinction possible. The school’s scores on standardized tests consistently surpass district scores as a whole. On the index California uses to measure student achievement, the Academic Performance Index, the school recently boasted an 865 (out of 1,000).
Sherman Oaks provides extracurricular programs in drama, visual arts, dance, music, speech and debate. Competitive groups also abound: Academic Decathlon, Science Bowl, Envirothon and Economic Summit, among others.
A 2004-05 case study of Sherman Oaks by the National Center for Educational Accountability identified the school’s best practices. One program highlighted is AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination), which staggers weekly lessons alongside small-group tutorials to focus on skills like Cornell note-taking, collective inquiry, higher-level questioning and self-reliance. At Sherman Oaks, administrators and educators stress mutual collaboration rather than the top-down decision-making common in many educational institutions. Furthermore, the study emphasized how the school makes goals and expectations clear to faculty and students. The study concluded that Sherman Oaks was unique in that its students were more likely to attend the school for all nine years, which contributed to a shared commitment by students and faculty.1
While longtime principal Robert Weinberg retired last year, he left a clear vision for the school. At the time of his retirement, the opening of a newly converted science laboratory was planned, with two more transformations set to take place in the next few years. A state-of-the-art Media Arts Academy is scheduled to open in 2011. This new asset will allow Career and Technical Education students to work in a real production environment. As the current interim principal puts it: “This school is noted districtwide as a place where academics and activities mix in a pleasant blend that makes school an enjoyable experience for everyone!”2
1For more best practices as determined by this study, see the NCEA’s report, “Just for the Kids—California: High School Study, 2004-05; California Best Practices Study, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies” (Summer 2005).
2Dr. Pete Ferry, letter from the interim principal, Aug. 4, 2010. http://soces.lausd.k12.ca.us/students/SummerPacket/summer%202010-2011/welcome-2010%20interim.pdf.
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