Academics » Our Approach to Learning

Our Approach to Learning

Our approach to learning caters to supporting students who struggled in school and/or were pushed out of traditional schools or continuation programs without earning a diploma. 

The Problem: Students Are Pushed Out of School

Every twenty-six seconds, a student drops out of high school. During the 2016-17 school year in Los Angeles, nearly 25% of students did not graduate on time. The truth is, many young people feel left behind in school. Some students struggle with standardized testing and the burden of constant homework assignments. Others have issues at home or in their personal lives that keep them from coming to school on a regular basis; some have to find jobs to support their families, and school becomes an afterthought. For many, they just don’t feel engaged with what is being taught in the classroom and can’t see how it would apply to their every day life. Their grades start to suffer, but crowded classrooms mean that they can’t receive the one-on-one attention they need from a teacher to catch up to their peers. Eventually, they get pushed out of school.  According to the National Dropout Prevention Center, the top reason students are pushed out of school is that they’ve missed too many days. Other reasons include poor/failing grades, not being able to keep up with schoolwork, and feeling like they didn’t belong or that school just wasn’t for them.

Our Solution: An Alternative Approach to Traditional Learning Models

At YouthBuild Charter School of California (YCSC), our approach to learning is not only different from traditional school models, which implement generic, one-size-fits-all curricula and standardized testing, but also from continuation schools, which often rely on packets or independent study assignments with little support from teachers. We understand that young people are unique and learn in different ways, so we need to meet learners where they’re at.

  Here, young people rediscover a passion for learning after being pushed out, aged out, or failed by the traditional public school system. YouthBuild Charter School offers young people the opportunity to re-engage and complete their high school education while becoming “ripples of hope” in their communities. With year-round enrollment at seventeen YouthBuild programs throughout Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego and Fresno counties, we offer students a hands-on approach to learning, which strengthens their technical, academic, and leadership skills. This approach also helps students find ways to connect what they learn in the classroom to their lives outside of school and give back to their communities in the process.

Project-Based Learning in Action

In order to meet the unique needs of our students, we use a project-based, interdisciplinary curriculum model that relies on authentic assessments and applied learning. Students are empowered to take what they learn in the classroom into their communities to promote social justice through volunteerism and advocacy. Unlike traditional schools that employ standardized curriculum and classroom practices that often disempower and alienate marginalized students, our project-based approach allows young adults to take ownership of their education. In addition to providing a rigorous education, YCSC partners with local community-based organizations to provide students with counseling services, college preparation, leadership development, vocational training in fields such as construction, solar technology and nursing, and the unique opportunity to revitalize their communities while earning school credit by building low-income housing.

Proven Results: It's Not Too Late to Graduate

 A Compton YouthBuild graduate celebrates

When students commit to YouthBuild Charter for a year and a half, they have an 85% chance of graduating, launching a successful transition from YCSC to their post-secondary education, careers, and beyond. On average, students are able to earn 1.7x more credits at YCSC than they did at their previous school because of the trimester system we employ. Since 2008, over 5,000 former high school push-outs have received their high school diploma at YouthBuild Charter School of California.

Ripple Effect

YouthBuild Charter’s caring staff believes that all young people, regardless of their circumstances, should have access to an education that will prepare them to counter social inequalities and realize their full potential. Students drop out of high school for a number of reasons—broken households, teen pregnancy, gang-infested neighborhoods, homelessness, personal or family illness—but no matter the obstacles, YCSC provides an education that caters to each student’s individual needs.

In the words of Robert F. Kennedy, “…ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” With YouthBuild Charter School of California as your springboard, you can make a splash that will change the world.


Educational Philosophy

Authentic Education Through Community Action

RUTH YouthBuild students working on a projectYouthBuild Charter School of California’s authentic and collaborative project-based education model is the contrarian’s response to a traditional, high-stakes testing system that dehumanizes the learning experience, marginalizes tomorrow’s potential leaders and disproportionately fails society’s most vulnerable groups. At the beginning of each trimester, teachers work together to form one “essential question” for all of their courses to guide how learners will engage in a course study. Students and teachers work together throughout the trimester to explore answers to their essential questions– questions about leadership, the balance of power, and social justice.  As the trimester draws to a close, students work together on their “Community Action Project,” a single event that involves the whole school working to serve the community, and is typically related to the site’s “essential question.” These culminating projects have included a community-wide health fair in Lennox, a “Green the East Side” campaign that added fresh food options to a local liquor store in a community that is largely a food desert, and a community fair that showcased student projects and featured voter registration and free counseling services. 


 Not Dropouts

Inherent to the educational philosophy held by YouthBuild Charter School of California is a deep rooted belief that all students enter the School program with gifts and talents that can be cultivated and showcased using a project-based curriculum where students are actively engaged as creators of their knowledge in a way that is not manufactured, but authentic and meaningful. This belief is put into practice to every extent possible, by all school staff using the authentic and collaborative approach in pedagogy and in conjunction with the YouthBuild program’s mission and vision. Young people are pushed out of school for a variety of reasons. Instead of judging them and calling them “drop-outs,” YCSC seeks to find solutions to the obstacles that may have led those young people to leave school without a diploma and provide an education that is more relevant to their needs.

A More Engaging Alternative to Traditional Continuation School Models and GED Prep Programs

What makes YCSC different from other continuation and adult schools serving a similar demographic is that it uses a project-based approach to learning instead of more traditional continuation models which rely on packets, distance learning, or GED prep tests. Additionally, most over-aged students have only one option after they leave school without a diploma—taking the GED. Through the school’s partnership with YouthBuild programs, students at YCSC, though over-aged, have an opportunity to earn a high school diploma in a classroom-based setting thanks to an exemption written into the California’s Education Code. Because of this partnership with YouthBuild programs, students at YCSC receive not only a great education and the opportunity to earn their high school diploma, but also counseling and social wrap-around services, job training, community service opportunities, and leadership development.