Mann UCLA Community School

Mann meets Moore: Introducing the Mann/UCLA Community School Design Team Blog

The stately building of Horace Mann Middle School dominates the block near Florence and Western Avenues. Fourteen miles up the 405, Moore Hall anchors UCLA’s historic core campus and houses the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Both Horace Mann and Ernest Moore envisioned public education as the foundation of a free and just society. This blog aims to restore faith in their vision by sharing our partnership work to design a powerful K-12 community school in South Los Angeles. We are a diverse group of educators, students, and community members. By taking turns writing about our school design experience, we hope to capture public imagination about what schools can and should be.

This is a moment of educational upheaval and uncertainty in Los Angeles and other urban centers. The battle lines are often drawn along policy lines, pitting charter against non-charter schools. Yet, the reform question is deeper and more philosophical: Should public education become a competitive marketplace of schools, or grow as a democratic civic institution? We are living this tension.

As a design team in an existing school that has watched its enrollment plummet with the rise of neighboring charter schools, we spend a lot of time talking about recruitment—how to entice families to choose our school. We have a working team on community outreach and marketing. Our research team is mapping the school choice landscape and the enrollment patterns of neighborhood students. We do this out of necessity, yet our heart is elsewhere.

Horace Mann launched the Common Schools movement in the 1830s to provide free universal education “to equalize the conditions of men.” In 1906, Ernest Moore was the Superintendent of Schools in Los Angeles and in 1919 co-founded the Southern Branch of the University of California. Moore believed that education was world building—that “knowledge-getting is not a process of copying. It is a process of constructing.” Our heart lies in this world building process.

The Horace Mann UCLA Community School will start with the existing middle school population of 380 students. A third of these students are in special education programs, 40% are in foster care, and many arrive at the doorstep after being turned away by other schools. The world we are building together must provide bright futures for each and every one of these students, but it must also enliven our city’s commitment to solving the problems of poverty, violence, homelessness, and racism. So far, the educational marketplace has skewed the enrollment in neighborhood schools like Mann—dealing them an unfair share of challenges. UCLA is joining with Mann in an attempt to level the playing field.

We invite you to share in our journey as we embrace Horace Mann’s invocation: “Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen.”