Why Center X?
The following is excerpted from the Center X Mission Statement, with an emphasis on its guiding principles (for the complete mission statement, see http://centerx.gseis.ucla.edu/mission.php).
Schools can be wonderful places. They also can be terrible places — especially for children who are not white and wealthy. Too often, the structures and cultures in schools exacerbate the inequalities in the rest of our society. With seemingly neutral, sometimes even scientific, technology and language, schools compound the disadvantages of children who have less outside of school. . . .
Center X, initiated by the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA, is founded on the conviction that the dismal picture painted above must change. . . . Business as usual will not suffice. Without doubt, it’s time for UCLA to act in bold new ways. Our privileged status as an institution and the protection that tenure brings to faculty carry with them the responsibility to tackle problems that others cannot or will not….
Center X’s activities are guided by the following core values:
Embody a social justice agenda — Use the racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity of our Los Angeles community as an asset as we construct extraordinarily high quality education for all children in Los Angeles and particularly for limited English proficient, and low-income, children of color in urban schools. A social justice agenda expresses itself both in and outside the classroom. . . .
Treat professional education “cradle-to-grave” — Education is a seamless process that connects efforts to attract young people into teaching, with learning experiences for teacher candidates, with learning experiences for novice teachers, and with learning experiences for seasoned professionals — including those studying for doctorates in curriculum, teaching, and education leadership. . . .
Collaborate across institutions and communities — Collaborative efforts provide the best means to address the entire ecology of settings and institutions that contribute to children’s education. Center X is committed to develop and sustain long-term, positive, interdependent connections equal status, partnerships among K-12 schools and community colleges, UCLA, and the diverse communities of Los Angeles (including business, state and local health and other social agencies, and local community organizations). . . . Additionally, Center X must connect with broader education reform efforts in the state and nation, and maintain a global view of our efforts.
Focus simultaneously on professional education, school reform, and reinventing the university’s role in K-12 schooling and community colleges — Center X must help new and experienced educators acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for social justice and educational quality in urban schools. At the same time, . . . education practitioners come to the university, not just to learn, but also to teach. Their expertise, gathered over years of experience, is a valued Center X resource. . . . UCLA faculty, students, and field-based practitioners all bring a wealth of knowledge about these issues to the Center; and all have much to learn.
Blend theory and practice — Center X will combine opportunities to acquire new knowledge and skills, with research aimed at creating new knowledge, and the practical application of that knowledge in schools. . . .
Bring together educators’ and students’ needs for depth of content knowledge, powerful pedagogies, and school cultures that enable serious and sustained engagement in teaching and learning — Center X avoids a false separation of content, pedagogy, and contexts for learning. To better understand their complex relationship and promote reforms that enhance it, Center X places a high value on having education professionals engage in the disciplines they teach, as well as learn about teaching. Writing teachers write, history teachers conduct original inquiries into historical topics, science teachers do scientific investigations. . . .
Remain self-renewing — View change and problems as “normal” conditions that require a flexible, responsive, non-static, learning organization. Center X must resist efforts to shape its activities into a traditional control-oriented, bureaucratic organization. Rather it must remain a commitment-driven entity whose structures organize people around important problems, interests, and goals.
Mirror in the Center’s organization, staffing, and daily activities the diverse, caring, socially responsible learning community that we seek to create in schools — In order to reform schools’ expectations for themselves and their students, we strive to model a constructivist approach to teaching and learning and a curriculum that reflects the diversity of our society in all its aspects: gender; ethnicity; cultural, linguistic and ethnic identification; multiple intelligences; socio-economic status; family structure, and others. Center X is itself a diverse community in which all members lead and contribute to our quest for socially just and intellectually rich schools for all children.