Select a School...
Select a School

West Contra Costa Unified

School District

facebook  twitter  instagram

WCCUSD Highlights


Superintendent's Message

Neighborhood Schools - The Diversity Advantage
November 2015

While the start of the 2016-17 school year is more than nine months away, late fall is the time when parents start to consider where to send their children to school for next year. All three of my children attended regular public schools from kindergarten through college. My youngest, a 2011 graduate of San Francisco State University, was in Title I schools from 3rd grade through high school graduation. So both as a parent and a career teacher and administrator, I’m committed to our neighborhood schools.

There’s no shortage of research that affirms my belief - that our regular neighborhood schools are the best preparation for life after high school. The Center on Education Policy in Washington, D.C. conducted a longitudinal study that compared the achievement and other education-related outcomes for students from urban public and private high schools. The study took into account the key background characteristics including the students’ achievement before high school, their familys’ socio-economic status and various indicators of parental involvement. When the factors of family background were taken into account, four key findings emerged:

1. Students attending independent, parochial, or public charter schools performed no better on achievement tests in math, reading, science and history than their counterparts in the traditional public schools.

2. Students who attended any type of private high school ended up no more likely to attend college than their counterparts in regular neighborhood high schools.

3. Young adults who had attended any type of private high school ended up with no more job satisfaction at age 26 than young adults who had attended public high schools.

4. Young adults who had attended any type of private high school ended up no more engaged in civic activities at age 26 than young adults who attended public high schools.

In essence, students who attend private high schools receive neither immediate academic advantages nor longer-term advantages in attending college, finding satisfaction in the job market or participating in public life.

Another study from the University of Michigan found that students who attended public high schools before matriculating at the University attained better grade point averages in college than those who attended private schools. In the National Center for Educational Statistics analysis of the National Assessment of Educational Progress testing showed, once again, when students’ family backgrounds were taken into account that public school students had higher levels of achievement. 

In addition to equivalent academic results, regular public schools have several other advantages. First and foremost is that neighborhood public schools serve everyone. The diversity in our community is reflected in the diversity in our schools. In West Contra Costa, we welcome students who speak more than 80 different languages and who bring a sense of internationalism private schools can’t begin to offer. Businesses need employees who are culturally sensitive and can work with people who are different from them. Attending our regular public schools better helps our graduates be prepared for a workplace requiring international travel or assignments.


With few exceptions, private schools don’t serve students with disabilities or special needs. Charter schools serve only the students with mild to moderate special needs. WCCUSD schools provide teaching and other support to children with special needs, no matter how severe and for the most part, those services are provided in regular schools. Increasingly, special needs students learn alongside their typical counterparts in the regular classroom. This is a crucial advantage since some non-disabled young people, when they have children of their own, will be raising special needs children. Young people who have learned with others of special needs are much better prepared to appreciate challenges and differences between people in life.

Our schools in West Contra Costa also offer many programs and opportunities that private and charter schools don’t – music, drama, dance, visual art, jazz band, orchestra, marching band, honors courses, advanced placement, dual immersion, career academies, high-end technology, the Fab Lab and many more. Since 2008 all our graduates have been required to complete a service learning project for graduation from high school. We offer many unique programs like the Ivy League Connection, Holy Names summer institute, UC Berkeley’s Trio programs, dual enrollment with community colleges, and summer internships in medicine, the arts, law, engineering, government and more.  

Finally, WCCUSD’s neighborhood schools are places that better help young people understand the challenges that life in our community brings and calls on them to serve others. While children can attend private and charter schools there is no option to attend a private life. Our schools in WCCUSD offer young people a path to exceptional learning and an authentic preparation for life in the real world.

Bruce Harter

To read more, please visit the: Superintendent's Message Archive


Committee & Subcommittee Meetings