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May 9, 2005

UC College Prep Online expands to operate online charter schools

By Jennifer McNulty

Building on the success of its online college-prep programs, the University of California is gearing up to establish a UC Online Academy with three online charter schools slated to open in the fall of 2006.

UC College Prep Online (UCCP), based at UCSC, recently received a three-year $550,000 grant from the California Department of Education's Public Charter Schools Grant Program to develop online schools in Imperial, Mendocino, and Butte Counties.

The academy will provide access for independent learners and special needs students to a high-quality college preparation curriculum. Potential beneficiaries might include students in foster care or migrant families that move around, teen mothers, students in the court system, students engaged in competitive athletics or performing arts, and those who are hospitalized.

"The UC Online Academy is designed to meet the needs of students who are best-served by the flexibility of an online program. We know there are UC-potential kids out there whose needs are not being met," said Francisco J. Hernandez, vice chancellor of Student Affairs at UCSC.

The university will work with each County Office of Education to develop programs and share responsibilities. Educational programs will follow a standards-based online curriculum aligned to the state framework for high schools and the admission requirements of the University of California.

Most activities will be conducted online, augmented by in-person physical education, academic research, and community service opportunities. The operation of charter schools establishes UCCP as a credit-granting entity that satisfies federal mandates of the "No Child Left Behind Act."

"UCCP will continue to offer supplemental services and online college-prep courses to schools with high enrollments of low-income and minority students. We have recently developed a new online algebra course that will serve the needs of many California students," said Hernandez.

Founded in 1999, UC College Prep Online (UCCP) was created in response to a state mandate to provide equity in access to rigorous curriculum. Historically, UCCP has offered courses that fill in the gaps where academic resources do not exist.

The UC Online Academy grant was approved by the State Board of Education with funding from the federal Public Charter Schools Grant Program. A $31.5 million package approved by state schools chief Jack O'Connell will help open 84 new charter schools in California, and help 11 existing high-quality charter schools share their best practices with other K-12 public schools. UC received $180,000 in start-up funds for each online charter school. California currently has more than 500 charter schools.

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