Pacific Collegiate School

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Pacific Collegiate School
3004 Mission Street Ext., Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Santa Cruz, CA
Coordinates 36°57′12″N 122°02′56″W / 36.9534°N 122.0488°W / 36.9534; -122.0488Coordinates: 36°57′12″N 122°02′56″W / 36.9534°N 122.0488°W / 36.9534; -122.0488
Type Charter; Public
Established 1999
School code 053270
Principal Simon Fletcher
Enrollment By lottery
Color(s) White, Black and Silver
Nickname PCS

Pacific Collegiate School is a grades 7-12 charter school located on the westside of Santa Cruz, California.

Currently, the number of students hovers around 514. The school mascot the Puma,[1] and the school colors are white, black and silver.

According to Newsweek,[2] in 2007 Pacific Collegiate was among the top 22 "elite public schools" in the United States.

PCS was named the #2 high school overall in the nation and the #1 charter school in the nation in the December 10, 2007, issue of U.S. News & World Report. The 2009 ranking places it as the #3 high school overall.[3]


In 2006 PCS was named California Charter School of the Year by the Charter School Association.[citation needed] The class of 2006 includes 8 National Merit Finalists, and all of the students in this class were accepted at colleges. In 2006, PCS's AP World History program (directed by teacher Tara Firenzi) won an award for being the best AP World History program in the nation.[4] PCS's music program, currently led by Heather Calame, has produced many high-ranking musicians, such as the LeBoeuf brothers, and continues to win recognition at the Anaheim music festival. PCS was named the #3 high school overall in the nation (behind Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, VA and Oxford Academy in Cypress, CA) and the #1 charter school in the nation in the December 4, 2009, issue of U.S. News & World Report. P.C.S was #8 in the nation and the 2nd Charter School (as of January 2013). Pacific Collegiate School has been named a 2017 California Gold Ribbon School by the California Department of Education, and ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the 2017 Top Public School in California and the No. 10 Public School in the nation.[5][6]

However, the U.S. News & World Report rankings are based solely on Advanced Placement Tests [7] and Advanced Placement Tests bear "little relationship to students' later performance in college".[8] While the College Board, developer and administrator of the Advanced Placement Tests, presents six studies supporting their contention that Advanced Placement Tests predict performance in college,[9] five of the six studies may be biased, and the sixth actually does not support the College Board's claim. Four of the studies were funded by either the College Board or the Educational Testing Service and therefore may have a biased methodology, results, and interpretation. A fifth study, Dougherty, et al. 2006, presented mixed results and poor or non-existent statistical analyses. The sixth paper, Geiser & Santelices, 2004, wrote in the abstract that this study "finds that the number of AP and honors courses taken in high school bears little relationship to students' later performance in college".[8] The U.S. News & World Report award, based on AP test performance, may not have any relationship to the ability of PCS, or any school, to prepare their students for success in college.


With the exception of an unspecified number of spaces reserved for children of volunteer Board members and school staff, admission is by lottery for families. This means that if the oldest child is selected by lottery, younger children in the family will have spaces reserved for them in future classes while both students are attending.

A waiting list is constantly maintained in case spaces open up during the year due to a family moving out of the area or transferring to another school. Demand is very high, and there are typically as many students on the waiting list as there are enrolled in the school.

However, there the classes generally get smaller with each year as kids find the match between PCS and their own interests diverge with time.


Like many charter schools, Pacific Collegiate has been accused of inadequately representing the diversity of the community.[10] As its charter with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education requires its student body to represent city demographics, Pacific Collegiate's Board has been making active efforts to increase minority enrollment, though some proposals are still challenged.[11] In the February 2007 lottery for admission, minority enrollment was up significantly, though is still well below city and county levels.[12] As of 2006, 50% of students in the County of Santa Cruz were Latino, 30% of students in the City of Santa Cruz were Latino, and 5% of the Pacific Collegiate student body were Latino. However, 15% of the 2007-08 7th grade were Latino, indicating significant change.[12]

In response to complaints to lack of diversity, some have pointed out the impossibility of consciously diversifying the school with the current random lottery entry system. As it is completely random, there is no way to choose who gets into the school or even who enters the lottery. In addition, the outreach efforts by the school are limited. As a college preparatory track, some compare the student body of PCS to the "college track" programs at Santa Cruz and Harbor High.


The curriculum at PCS aims to prepare students for Advanced Placement classes, classes that are considered equivalent in difficulty to college level classes. All students are required to take several AP classes, which are shown in the table below. Classes marked with an asterisk are not required in order to graduate. In years with multiple classes listed, the student can choose between them.

Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Year 6
Mathematics Pre-Algebra* Algebra 1 Algebra 2 Geometry Pre-Calculus*/AP Computer Science* AP Calculus BC*/AP Statistics*
English American Literature Ancient World Literature Medieval World Literature Modern World Literature AP English Language AP English Literature
Science Life Science Physical Science Conceptual Physics Chemistry AP Biology AP Physics B*/AP Chemistry*/AP Environmental Science*
History American History Ancient World History Medieval World History AP World History AP United States History Local Government & Politics
Arts Arts Arts Level 1 Arts Level 2 Arts Level 3 Arts Level AP* Elective*
Foreign Language Language 1 Language 2 Language 3 Language AP* Elective Elective

The Arts department at Pacific Collegiate offers Instrumental Music, Choir, Visual Art, Dance, Drama (Performing Arts), Video Production, and Arts Rotation. All students take 3 years of any arts at the high school level to fulfill graduation requirements. Dance is only a one-year class, as is Video Production.

The foreign languages offered are Spanish, Latin, French, and Mandarin. All students are required to take levels one, two, and three of at least one language. The Advanced Placement level is optional.

  • The student may take a test before the start of their seventh grade year to determine if they will get into Pre-Algebra or Algebra 1

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Simon Fletcher (principal} (June 1, 2017). "The Thursday Letter". Pacific Collegiate School. Retrieved June 2, 2017. 
  2. ^ Newsweek Article on Elite Public Schools Archived May 19, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ U.S. News and World Report - Best High Schools: Gold Medal List Archived 2008-12-10 at WebCite
  4. ^ Santa Cruz Sentinel - Latest PCS honor: Best world history program in the nation
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ U.S.News & World Report, America's Best High Schools: Gold Medal LIst
  8. ^ a b Geiser S. & Santelices V. (2004). The role of advanced placement and honors courses in college admissions,UC Berkeley: Center for Studies in Higher Education
  9. ^ College Board press release 2/21/2006: Does success on advanced placement program exams predict college success: A summary of AP research
  10. ^ King, Matt (2006-08-09). "Charter school makes efforts to ward off charges of elistism". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Archived from the original on September 28, 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-30. 
  11. ^ King, Matt (2006-11-07). "Charter school's plan to boost diversity draws criticism". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Retrieved 2007-10-30. [dead link]
  12. ^ a b King, Matt (2007-02-24). "Pacific Collegiate School touts minority gains". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Archived from the original on 2007-08-28. Retrieved 2007-10-30. 

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