West Campus in south Sacramento, named 83rd-best public high school in California and the 426th in the nation, gets a few hundred more applications for its freshman class than it can enroll.
Despite that competitive field, its principal said applicants need not be tops academically to get into the school, which U.S. News & World Report recognized Tuesday in its annual survey of 20,000 public high schools nationally.
“We don’t have any cutoff for GPA or test scores or things like that,” Principal Greg Thomas said. “We score attendance, behavior, extracurricular activities. We’re looking for the well-rounded student. If a student is below average in math or reading, so what? We’ll fix that.”
Students face a detailed application process, requiring an essay, a mock preliminary SAT, transcripts from seventh grade and later, reports on extracurricular activities and responsibilities, and recommendations from a teacher and an administrator or counselor.
West Campus, in the Sacramento City Unified School District, was recognized by U.S. News & World Report in part for its cultural and economic diversity, its ability to serve all students as reflected in state math and reading test results, and for its preparation of students for college.
Thomas said the school receives about 450 applications each year for about 215 freshman seats. Only a handful of applications come from students seeking to enroll in upper grades. The school’s latest Academic Performance Index for 2013 shows a strong 902 performance, well above the state average.
Students often are enrolled from outside the district and currently include those from West Sacramento, Antioch and Elk Grove. But about 30 percent are enrolled from Will C. Wood Middle School, less than two miles from West Campus, he said.
“Every year, we’re getting a higher and higher percentage from our neighborhood and from Will C. Wood,” Thomas said.
He said he is working through outreach to help keep the minority enrollment strong. “I go out to some other areas,” he said. “I go to Rosa Parks (a K-8 school about six miles northeast of West Campus) and I try to directly speak to some of our African American students to encourage them to think about West Campus.”
West Campus’ minority enrollment comprises about 80 percent of the students. For the 850 students at the campus, that translates to about 35 percent Hispanic students, nearly 32 percent with Asian ancestry and less than 10 percent African American, according to the California Department of Education.
The state data also show that West Campus has a small share of English-learners, about 2 percent, but more than 60 percent are considered socioeconomically disadvantaged.