No Excuses University is in place in 16 schools in California, Oregon, Texas and Illinois, serving about 9,000 students.
Paul Alvarez/The Press-Enterprise
Second-graders Macie Luszeck Johnson, left, and Georgia Cuevas read with teacher Paulette Feraldi at Harvest Valley Elementary.
The concept came five years ago from an elementary school principal trying to make a district initiative relevant to his young students.
At the time, Poway Unified School District in San Diego County had decided that all students would be ready for college, said Damen Lopez, co-principal of Los Peñasquitos Elementary School.
Countless workshops offered middle and high school teachers the tools to help prepare students, but few sessions were aimed at younger students.
No Excuses University became a way for elementary educators to reassert their importance in preparing children for higher education.
"Our work has been dumbed down because we haven't taken our seat at the table," Lopez said. "Now, we're saying there's a lot that can be done from when a 5-year-old enters kindergarten."
After two years, Lopez and Jeff King, Los Peñasquitos' co-principal, made No Excuses University available to interested schools. The school's Academic Performance Index --a state measure of progress from one year to the next based on results from the California Standards Test -- was 875 in 2004 and has since risen to 906.
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