Innovations in Education: Successful Magnet High Schools
September 2008
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Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School
Los Angeles


Selected Characteristics of Magnet School and Host Districta
Magnet School: Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet Host District: Los Angeles Unified School Districtb
Year Established as Magnet 1990 Population Type Large City
Theme Medical Size 710 square miles
Grades 9–12 MSAPc Funded Yes
Enrollment 1,723 students Enrollment 52,525 magnet out of 653,215 students
Student Ethnicity 66% Hispanic
1.9% African-American
14% White
12% Asian American
5% Filipino
Student Ethnicityb 72.8% Hispanic
11.2% African-American
8.9% White
3.7% Asian American
Special Education 1.3% Special Educationd 11.2%
Free or Reduced-price Lunch 82.8% Free or Reduced-price Lunchb 73.2%
English Language Learners 4.1% English Language Learnersb 37.6%

a Source: Dataquest, data for school year 2006–07,

b Source: Ed Data district profile fiscal year 2006–07, Los Angeles Unified School District, (LAUSD)

c U.S. Department of Education's Magnet Schools Assistance program

d Source: School Matters, students with disabilities, LAUSD 2005–06,

High levels of achievement and motivation are not hard to find along the corridors and in the classrooms at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School (Bravo). Display cases show recent awards: a National Title I Distinguished School plaque (Title I is the section of the No Child Left Behind Act that provides resources for districts and schools serving disadvantaged student populations, including low-performing and high-poverty students) hangs next to photos of students, community members, and administrators at a ceremony celebrating Bravo's 2006 recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School. (Both award programs honor schools for their academic excellence; the former is administered by the National Association of Title I Directors, the latter by the U.S. Department of Education.) Nearby posters, including one titled "Determination of Neurostimulating Electrode Surface Area Using Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy," exhibit students' academic excellence in the medical field and summarize their research projects conducted with university faculty and biomedical researchers.

Such accomplishments signal Bravo's rigorous curriculum. Students are motivated because if they do well, they will qualify for a program that enables them to become certified nursing assistants and find employment as paraprofessionals in a California health-care center. Bravo's principal Maria Torres-Flores sums up the school's ambitious aim: "Our belief is that every student that comes through our doors can and will be successful. It's not just about graduating from high school, but about continuing their education and going on to college."

Named to honor a local surgeon, business leader, and advocate for the education of Mexican American students, Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School was established in 1990 to meet the academic needs of students drawn to health services careers. It began modestly. Opening with a class of 84 students and three core teachers, the magnet was housed in two bungalows on the campus of Lincoln High School. This small magnet program, Lincoln Medical Magnet, underwent several stages until 1990, when it became a stand-alone magnet, Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High. With the help of funds from community partners and loans, the school relocated to the current five-floor, single-building facility in the Boyle Heights area of East Los Angeles, adjacent to the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC). Today, Bravo's 74 faculty members serve 1,723 students. Its proximity to a hub of medical schools, hospitals, and research centers that partner with the school, opens the doors for students to learn about the real world of biomedical research, clinical practice, and health care providers. Bravo is an inner-city school in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD): 40 percent of its students live in the Boyle Heights neighborhood, a community of low-income Latinos, although the school draws the balance of its students from all backgrounds and from various areas of LAUSD.

While Bravo's magnet theme connects students to the real world of health-care providers, biomedical research, and hospitals, and offers them options for pursuing various medical careers, the school's focus has evolved over the years to ensure that even students who do not pursue those professions will be fully prepared for college. Through the Bravo Curricular Pathway, students are encouraged and prepared to meet the admission requirements of the University of California system, the California State University system, or similar institutions. A second option available to students may include a community college, occupational center, technical school, or other postsecondary training programs. Bravo has successfully realized its goal: All students complete California's "A-G" course work for college admission, and of its 2007 graduating class, 94 percent went on to two- or four-year colleges.

Mission and Curriculum

Bravo's motto of "Quality and Integrity" embodies the school's approach to teaching and learning. Teachers constantly look for ways to put fundamental college-preparatory and life skills into everyday classroom practices. Bravo's curriculum is infused with academically enriched material and course offerings that require students to develop organizational and analytical skills they can apply beyond the school walls.

Students are expected to follow a framework for rigorous academics from the first day they enter Bravo. An individualized graduation plan helps students plan courses over the next four years geared to their postsecondary goals. Incoming students attend an introductory orientation course that exposes them to the health professions. Bravo staff also set a goal for each student to enroll in at least one of the 14 Advanced Placement (AP) courses before they graduate. Bravo partnered with East Los Angeles Community College, where students who want to get an early start can enroll in a variety of college-level courses offered at Bravo's campus after the regular school day. Since students attend Bravo from all over Los Angeles, students also may take courses at a community college in their own neighborhood. This dual-enrollment program (90-100 students participate on campus and 25-30 students participate off campus each semester) allows students to receive credits towards graduation from Bravo, as well as college units.

The school offers a diverse curriculum in the fields of science and health science beyond the basic district requirements. Most courses allow students to spend time at health or clinical sites to gain additional experience and training. While their core courses meet the state's minimum college admissions requirements, juniors and seniors can enroll in one of the dozen science and health science electives, which include Dental Assistant, Medical Terminology, and Nursing Assistant. After successful completion of the first term, students are then required to complete 60 hours of theory and 100 hours of clinical practice in a community health facility. Students are tested at the end of the course—the equivalent to the first semester of nursing school—by taking the state certificate exam administered by the American Red Cross. Successful completion enables students to be employed as nursing assistants in a health-care facility.

Bravo's partnerships with such world-class medical and research facilities as the University of Southern California Health Sciences Campus (USC-HSC) and the Saban Research Institute offer students diverse field experiences, learning enrichment opportunities, and internship possibilities.

Ensuring Student Success

Central to Bravo's focus as a school for the college-bound is the idea that all students, no matter what their ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or incoming GPA, should have the opportunity, academic support, and resources to succeed and pursue a higher education. This means that there are no tests or admissions requirements that students must meet in order to apply; instead, students are selected by lottery. Thus, says assistant principal Felipe Caceres, "We get students from the very high end to the very low end of the educational level as far as their needs."

Though students at Bravo vary in achievement levels, Caceres explains that Bravo's administrators have "challenged the faculty to look at the composition of the more rigorous classes such as AP courses so that the underrepresented minorities are a part of that." Bravo offers an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which provides support to the academically average so that they can be placed in more rigorous classes. It requires a 7:1 student-to-tutor ratio, and teaches students foundational strategies like note taking and organizational skills that help them thrive in all their classes, and even into college.

Bravo students come from all parts of Los Angeles and from diverse backgrounds. Implementing a support system that meets the individual needs of all students is key. One strategy is its Summer Bridge Program, designed for students who struggled during middle school. They are invited to the Bravo campus for one week before the start of the school year to familiarize themselves with the school's environment, mission, and expectations. With their parents, they also can attend a six-Saturday program in which students receive assistance from a core group of faculty, while their parents work with counselors in academic workshops focusing on such topics as building a positive learning environment and how to read a student report card.

During the school day, tutors are scheduled to come into math and AVID classrooms to work with students in small groups. Some of Bravo's qualified paraprofessionals stay after school and tutor students. In addition to after-school support, students identified as below or far below basic on their California Standardized Test (CST) scores are invited to attend Saturday Academic Academies. On average, 150 students in grades 9-11 participate, as well as any seniors who have not passed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE).

Building School Capacity

High-quality teachers are drawn to Bravo because of its reputation, strong professional culture, and the level of classroom autonomy. Its 72 members average 11 years of teaching experience. Five teachers hold doctorate degrees, three received National Board Certification, and many hold master's degrees. Professional development for science program staff is helped through Bravo's partners in the medical world. Teachers and staff from the USC-HSC help develop teacher lesson plans and, through its STAR I Biomedical Research course, educates teachers in how to use computing and communications technology to enhance student learning.

The partnerships Bravo has with its neighboring medical and research institutes have been a crucial part of the school's development and its access to resources and sustainability, beginning with its founding partner, the Los Angeles County and University of Southern California Medical Center. Thanks to the Adopt-A-School agreement, Bravo students can take advantage of the Center's personnel and site resources, and participate in on-site experiences at the medical facilities. A key component of this partnership gives Bravo students a traditional, hands-on approach to learning in a health setting by way of training programs coordinated in conjunction with the school's volunteer requirements. To graduate from Bravo, students must complete 40 hours of community service, and to receive credit, students must volunteer in a hospital setting.

Achievement and Outcomes

Bravo's designation as a Title I school in 1996 enabled it to acquire additional resources to meet the diverse needs of its students.24 Title I funds have been used over the years for such support as hiring extra teachers to reduce class sizes, providing students with specific assistance through tutoring, counseling services, and extended learning time through Saturday Academies. As a result of the continued dedication of both the staff and students towards achieving success, Bravo has made significant gains in closing the achievement gap, particularly for the Hispanic and economically disadvantaged subgroups. Table 2 shows that the percentages of Bravo 10th- and 11th-graders scoring proficient and above on the 2007 state assessments for reading and mathematics were greater than the overall district achievement rates for those grade levels and, with the exception of grade 10 mathematics, greater than the state achievement rates for those levels.

In 2005, Bravo was recognized as a Title I Distinguished School for having risen above obstacles of poverty and showing exceptional student performance for two or more consecutive years. That same year, Bravo became one of the very few Title I high schools that had surpassed the 800 Academic Performance Index (API) target set by the state of California. (As part of California's Public School Accountability Act of 1999, API measures the academic performance and growth of schools.)

Table 2. Percentages of 10th- and 11th-Grade Students Scoring Proficient and Advanced on 2007 California Standards Test in Reading and Mathematics at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet as Compared to Los Angeles Unified School District and the State

Subject and Grade Bravo Los Angeles Unified
School District
State of California
Summative High School Mathematics Grade 10 46% 42% 65%
English Language Arts Grade 10 62% 23% 37%
Summative High School Mathematics Grade 11 52% 27% 44%
English Language Arts Grade 11 74% 30% 37%


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Last Modified: 11/19/2009