Girish Mahajan (Editor)

The College Preparatory School

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Founded  1960
Faculty  55
Enrollment  363 (2015-16)
Mascot  Cougar
Number of students  363 (2015–2016)
Head of School  Monique DeVane
Grades  9–12
Phone  +1 510-652-0111
Motto  Mens Conscia Recti
The College Preparatory School
School type  Private, college preparatory
Address  6100 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94618, USA

The College Preparatory School (CPS) is a four-year private high school in Oakland, California. The school's motto is mens conscia recti, a Latin phrase adapted from Virgil's Aeneid that means "a mind aware of what is right."



"At College Prep we believe in the foundational importance of scholarship, the value of dialogue, and the need for academically curious young people to belong to a kind, creative, diverse, and joyful community. We challenge our students to engage deeply in learning, appreciate one another, and grow into adults who are intellectually adventurous, ethically sure-footed, and generous of heart and spirit."


Founded in 1960, College Prep's first campus was located in a house in the Claremont neighborhood of Oakland/Berkeley. The school was founded by Mary Harley Jenks, former head of the Bentley School and Ruth Willis. Miss Jenks, the first Head of School, envisioned a school that valued "high standards of scholarship and conduct." In 1983 College Prep moved to its current campus on Broadway, walking distance from the Rockridge BART station.

College Prep has received accolades for its academic excellence. A 2007 Wall Street Journal article ranked College Prep as the sixth best high school in the United States. In 2010, Forbes magazine ranked College Prep as the seventeenth best private school in the United States. In 2016, ranked College Prep the fourteenth best private school in the nation.

College Prep's Heads of School have been Mary Harley Jenks (1960-1969), Robert Baldwin, Jr. (1969-1990), Clint Wilkins (1990-1994), Janet Schwartz (1994-1999), Murray Cohen (1999-2011), and Monique DeVane (2011–present).


A large central courtyard serves as the center of daily activity to create intimacy and a sense of community between students and faculty. The newest addition to campus is the Scott MacPherson Stapleton World Languages and Cultures Building, dedicated in 2011. A campus master plan was completed in 2014.


Robert Baldwin, a former Head of School, described the duty of College Prep teachers to maintain an "authentic presence in the classroom", so as to promote openness between teachers and students. A College Prep English teacher, when asked in an interview for the book Conversations With Great Teachers, described Baldwin as seeking teachers who "give off an aura of someone who is in the right place", by nourishing interest in students. For that reason, the curriculum at College Prep is created with "creativity, independent thought, and ethical sensitivity" as its primary goals. Students are not distinguished between enrollment in honors and standard courses, as all classes are taught at the honors level, and are designated as such by the University of California. Students' grade point averages are calculated on an unweighted 4.0 scale. Students are required to take three years of core curricular classes and an extra year of English.


In order to facilitate the discursive nature of College Prep's rigorous English curriculum, classes are conducted at Harkness tables: oval, wooden tables popularized by philanthropist Edward Harkness when he presented the tables to Phillips Exeter Academy in the 1930s. Harkness believed that the tables encouraged students to actively participate in discussion, and that they constituted a "revolution" in liberal arts education. Because the number of Harkness tables currently available for classes is limited, the second phase of the school's facilities project will put the tables in all English classrooms.

As freshmen and sophomores, College Prep students learn basic composition and analytical writing through close reading of works from the literary canon, such as Homer's Odyssey, J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, and the works of Shakespeare. Juniors and seniors then use these skills to conduct classes in seminar format, modeled after college-level English courses, interpreting texts through Socratic dialogue. One recent seminar is "Rebels With a Cause", an exploration of the motivations and convictions of literary protagonists "willing to die for a cause", and includes analysis of Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls and Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Another recent seminar, "Narrations Strange", involves a close study of madness; Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Nabokov's Pale Fire are analyzed in order to understand the minds of unreliable narrators in celebrated literature.

Because of the seminar format, formal Advanced Placement English courses are not offered, but many students still take the exam.


College Prep students must take courses in world history, western civilization, and United States history. As with the majority of College Prep classes, formal Advanced Placement classes are not offered, but the history department offers extracurricular preparation for interested students. After the mandatory history curriculum has been completed, seniors are offered seminar-format elective classes. These courses regularly include introductory economics, linguistics, and United States government. Recent seminars have involved critical study into the American Civil War and Reconstruction, American history after World War II, American protest movements, and comparative religion.

Each year, a College Prep student is awarded the Myron Markel Prize, established by psychiatrist Bennett Markel in honor of his brother, to award exemplary critical analysis in writing about history.

World languages

College Prep offers five-year programs in French, Japanese, and Spanish, and four-year programs in Mandarin Chinese and Latin. Advanced levels of all world language classes are Advanced Placement preparatory. In order to facilitate some degree of language immersion, at around the second year of study, English is no longer used in language classrooms.

Advanced Spanish and French students conduct classes in seminar format, where students are immersed in particular aspects of their respective language's culture or literature through Socratic debate. Recent Spanish elective seminars include a class in advanced conversational skills, Spanish literature, and creative writing, including a study of contemporary Spanish literary movements like magic realism. Another Spanish language seminar explores Hispanic culture and involves close study of historical trends and current events in the Spanish-speaking world. A recent French seminar analyzed French literature and film, including Begag's Le Gone du Chaâba and Molière's L'école des femmes.

College Prep's Latin curriculum places emphasis on ancient Roman literature and history. For two years Wheelock's Latin is used extensively, before students advance to studies of Catiline and Cicero through Sallust's Bellum Catilinae and Cicero's In Catilinam. Advanced students study Vergil's Aeneid and write series of analytical essays in preparation for the Advanced Placement Latin examination. The Latin program participates in the local chapter of the California Junior Classical League, and all Latin students take the National Latin Exam annually.

The school's new Mandarin program seeks to provide a strong foundation in Chinese speaking and writing, with some study of Chinese culture. Students learn simplified Chinese characters before being introduced to the traditional script. As with all College Prep world language courses, Chinese becomes the only language of instruction after two years of study. The Japanese program places greater emphasis on cultural aspects of Japanese language education. Japanese visitors regularly visit the campus to provide cultural presentations and serve as conversation partners. Classes focus heavily on Japanese literature and film, including the works of Hayao Miyazaki and Akira Kurosawa. The curriculum is compliant with the National Standards for Japanese Language Learning.


Instead of requiring the use of a traditional textbook, College Prep's math department writes its own practice problems and course materials, and conducts lessons primarily within a lecture and discursive format. College Prep breaks with the typical pre-college sequence of mathematics courses in the United States (see: Mathematics education in the United States) and follows an integrated curriculum that combines numerous topics and strands of mathematics throughout the year. For this reason, classes are generically designated Math I through VI. Despite the integrated format, each section does maintain a concentration on a core mathematical field; Math I (algebra), Math II (geometry), Math III (trigonometry), Math IV (applied mathematics and analysis), Math V (AB & BC calculus), and Math VI (multivariable calculus).

College Prep's mathematics curriculum combines visual, auditory, and kinesthetic instruction to learn concepts and skills. Classes are conducted in small, cooperative groups, and often involve introductory computational science through calculators and laptop computers. This format carries over to the school's Math Club, which also competes in American Mathematics Competitions and often qualifies students for the American Invitational Mathematics Examination and United States of America Mathematical Olympiad.


College Prep's science program establishes a foundation in scientific principles by requiring interdisciplinary study. While most public high schools teach introductory biology courses to freshmen, College Prep follows the Physics First model of teaching basic concepts of physics to ninth grade students within an integrated laboratory format. After completing courses in chemistry and molecular and environmental biology, students often elect to take Advanced Placement Physics, Chemistry, and Environmental Science courses. Elective classes are offered in astronomy, science ethics, animal behavior, and organic chemistry.

Members of the science department operate a "Green Council" devoted to environmental sustainability initiatives and facilitating the "greening" of the College Prep campus.


College Prep students are required to fulfill the University of California Visual and Performing Arts education requirement by completing two semesters of arts classes within two disciplines. The Arts department therefore offers courses in visual arts, drama, music and dance, and conducts collaborative productions between disciplines, such as musical theatre shows, and concert arts tours around California. A dedicated teaching space and performing arts center is planned as part of the school's ongoing facilities modernization.

The Visual Arts department teaches foundation- and advanced-level classes on creative and technical skills in drawing and design. College Prep also has a dedicated darkroom for photography students, who study film development and digital image making. Students who pass a portfolio review by the Visual Arts faculty are allowed to prepare individually for the Advanced Placement Studio Art examination.

The Drama program is centered around its Acting class and conducts two major drama productions each year, and is supported by stagecraft, drama tech, and digital video production classes. Drama at College Prep was recently recognized as one of the top drama programs in the country, and students were invited to perform in the American High School Theatre Festival in 2007, part of the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.

Students in the Music program often perform in instrumental ensembles, performing both standard and "pop" repertoire. The orchestra, jazz band, and chamber music group organize regular concerts and attend the biennial music tour of California with the other Arts programs. The school also has a dedicated chorus and vocal ensemble. Many students participate in the non-audition Chorus class, but advanced singers can audition for an Advanced Vocal Ensemble. Members of the A.V.E. are regularly selected to perform in the prestigious National Honor Choir organized by the American Choral Directors Association. Alumni of the A.V.E. also often participate in popular collegiate singing groups, such as the Harvard Din & Tonics.

Dance classes are offered at all levels, and students perform in high school dance festivals, senior centers, and in theaters throughout the Bay Area. The dance program focuses on modern dance with an emphasis on African American choreographers, and teaches the techniques of Lester Horton, José Limón, Martha Graham, Katherine Dunham, and Alvin Ailey. Guest choreographers regularly visit the school to teach students. Dance is highly popular at College Prep, and the program usually has around 70 dancers at one time.


On-campus clubs usually meet weekly. Though each has a faculty advisor, they are mainly student facilitated. Clubs range from hobbies and interests (Disney Club, Poetry Club, Knitting Club), to activism and social justice (Gender Sexuality Awareness, Feminist Union, Latinos Unidos, Asian American Association, Black Student Faculty Union), to academia (Current Events Club, Latin Club, Math Club, French Club). CAT, or Community Action Team, is a branch of StuCo (Student Council), and is more supervised by school administrators.


In an attempt to combine technology and student life, the school operates three full-service computer labs and four classrooms fully equipped with laptop computers. Each faculty member is provided a laptop for classroom instruction. Beginning with the Class of 2014, every incoming student is provided an Apple MacBook Pro computer, with the aim of universally integrating technology into the curriculum. The program is financed by a supplementary "technology fee" to the tuition. Families may opt out of the school-purchase plan if they purchase their own equipment. When students graduate, the computers belong to them.


Academics center around an advisor system that matches each student with a faculty member who help students to organize their schedules and provide guidance, while serving as a liaison between students' parents and the school. Senior mentors help freshmen facilitate their transition into high school. College Prep also offers counseling and health education programs conducted by a full-time health educator and counselor, a trained child psychologist, who provides comprehensive support to students and conducts a mandatory health program for sophomores intended to introduce them to health topics and encourage them to make healthful choices.

College counseling

College Prep has an intensive and individualized counseling process for college admissions - two counselors are staffed full-time, and students begin regularly meeting with their assigned counselor beginning in the middle of their junior year. Current college counselors have previously served as directors of admission at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University. Individual meetings take place weekly, and students are required to attend periodic workshops regarding the admissions process.

Community service

College Prep students have robust involvement in community service projects. Students participate in service efforts as a class - sophomores and seniors are involved in maintenance projects at Point Reyes, and juniors cooperate with Rebuilding Together to assist in various projects around the Bay Area. Students also cook for men's and women's shelters in Oakland. Schoolwide participation in Oxfam and Amnesty International is common.


The school organizes a number of special retreats for each class. Freshman retreat is conducted at the Headlands campus of the Yosemite Institute, north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and is designed to help students adjust to high school. Sophomores retreat on the American River and participate in a whitewater rafting trip. Junior retreat is an exercise in leadership training and involves extensive group discussion and activities on an outdoor ropes course. Seniors do community service at Point Reyes and discuss the transition from high school to college, providing an informal setting to say goodbye before graduation.


A Diversity Coordinator facilitates discussion of diversity among faculty, staff, and students. Students attend the yearly conference for People of Color in Independent Schools and stage regular events such as forums, guest speakers, and classroom discussions. The Diversity Center also heads a "Freshman Foundations" program that introduces students to challenges of diversity that occur in high school. Students also participate in the school's various cultural diversity organizations.


An Intraterm period takes place in the week before spring break, and consists of special courses, field studies and internships offered to students outside of the regular curriculum. Recent Intraterm classes include "U.S. History through 'The Enemy' in American Cinema," a study of 20th century American history through depictions of enemies in American cinema, and "Art on the Run," a field study of art and culture through trips to Bay Area museums and landmarks, such as the Gates of Hell at Stanford University and The Thinker at the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Juniors may opt out of Intraterm classes or trips in order to visit colleges. Annual participation in Intraterm is a graduation requirement.


College Prep has a variety of interscholastic teams. Because of the school's small size, and the school policy of exempting students from Physical Education classes during a semester of participation, the percent of students who join sports teams is exceptionally high: 65% of Prep students play team sports.

College Prep is one of ten schools in the Bay Counties League - East. The school has won twenty-one League titles since 2010. The school's mascot is the Cougar, and the school colors are blue, maroon, and white. CPS's main rivals are the Jayhawks of Head-Royce School.

As a separate component of the school's modernization and expansion project, the Board also negotiated the unrestricted use of the Tom Bates Fields, an athletic compound adjacent to the Golden Gate Fields, for use by College Prep athletics.


The school has a competitive policy debate team, which has reached elimination rounds at multiple national tournaments, including winning the national Tournament of Champions in 2003 and reaching the final round of the National Speech and Debate Tournament in 2004 and 2012. Alumni of the College Prep debate program have gone on to win the prestigious Rex Copeland Award for the top-ranked college policy debate team in the country as well as reach late elimination rounds of the National Debate Tournament. In 2010, the debate program qualified three teams to both the Tournament of Champions and the National Speech and Debate Tournament. In 2014, a novice CPS Policy debate team won the Western Novice & JV National Championship.

College Prep's Lincoln-Douglas debate team also competes regularly competes at the Tournament of Champions, the National Speech and Debate Tournament, and the California State Championship. In 2008, a College Prep Lincoln-Douglas debater placed third in the California State Championship.

College Prep hosts an annual round-robin policy debate tournament known as the "California Round Robin" every February, where top policy debate teams in the country are invited to participate. Rounds are held on the school campus and in conference rooms provided by the Oakland office of the Reed Smith law firm. The California Round Robin is unique from traditional tournaments in that the school invites experts on the year's resolution to judge the final round. Because the final round is held the night before the popular California Invitational tournament at UC Berkeley, it is usually well attended by the invitational's competitors.

The debate team is supported by an endowment from the Julia Burke Foundation, and the foundation offers a scholarship to both the "Debater of the Year" at College Prep and the Julia Burke Flame for Excellence scholarship at the national policy debate Tournament of Champions in memory of Julia Burke, a young debater who died in a car accident while a student at College Prep.


There is no official chess team at CPS. However, CPS has had several nationally ranked chess players, including the California State chess champion and the bronze medalist at the World Youth Chess Championship.

Events and traditions

  • The school newspaper is the College Prep Radar, which is now online, and the yearbook is known as Entropy.
  • Every year the school features a large scale performing arts event, alternating yearly between a musical and music tour, where the Chorus, AVE, Jazz Band, Orchestra, Chamber Music, and Intermediate and Advanced Dance classes perform around California. Music concerts, art exhibitions, and dance shows take place several times each semester on the school's campus.
  • Snow Trip is a three-day trip which seniors take to Bear Valley in Sierra Nevada after semester finals in January.
  • CPS Day is a morning of alternative education and an afternoon of work assignments for the benefit of the school grounds.
  • Intraterm is a week in the middle of the spring semester which affords students the opportunity to travel on an organized trip or take an alternative class. This program encourages teachers to create curricula on untraditional topics and thus enrich the learning of their students in new ways.
  • Senior Ditch Day is a College Prep tradition where seniors decorate the school with elaborate signs and artwork, adhering to one unified theme. It generally takes place in the last few weeks of school, and is condoned and chaperoned by several faculty members, who remove content that is in poor taste.
  • Tuition and endowment

    Tuition for the 2015-2016 school year is $38,670, with 24 percent of the student body receiving need-based grants.

    College Prep's endowment is currently $19 million, or about $52,000 per student.

    Test scores

    The mean SAT Reasoning Test scores (on a scale of 200-800) for the College Prep Class of 2015 were 728 critical reading, 741 math, and 736 writing. In 2015, 132 students took 251 Advanced Placement exams in 18 different subjects with 93% of the scores fours or fives.

    Notable alumni

  • Cher Wang (1977), billionaire founder of smartphone company HTC (High Tech Computer Corporation)
  • Chris Tashima (1978), Academy Award-winning filmmaker and actor
  • Mark Cerny (1980), video game pioneer
  • Avrim Blum (1983), computer scientist
  • David Marchick (1984), former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and director of intergovernmental affairs in the Office of the United States Trade Representative under the Clinton Administration; currently Managing Director and Global Head of Regulatory Affairs of the Carlyle Group
  • Edie Meidav (1984), novelist and recipient of the Lannan Literary Fellowship
  • Anne Washburn (1986), playwright
  • Carol Chodroff (1988), United States Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch
  • Ian Agol (1988), mathematician and professor at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Danielle Girard (1988), best-selling crime author
  • Eric Robbins (1990), author of The Casual Conservationist
  • Zachary Coile (1991), communications director for California senator Barbara Boxer, former editor at the San Francisco Chronicle
  • Christin Evans (1991), owner of San Francisco independent bookstore Booksmith
  • Johanna Fateman (1992), zine editor and member of feminist post-punk rock band Le Tigre
  • Miranda July (1992), performance artist, writer, and filmmaker
  • Jonah Peretti (1992), founder of BuzzFeed
  • Romesh Ratnesar (1992), World Editor and member of senior editorial staff at TIME magazine
  • Siobhan Gorman Carpenter (1993), intelligence correspondent for The Wall Street Journal
  • Kat Foster (1996), actress
  • Chelsea Peretti (1996), actor, comedian
  • David Pruess (1999), International Master, US Chess Federation
  • Justin Rosenstein (2001), former Facebook and Google software engineer, co-creator of Asana with Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz
  • Elliot Tarloff (2001), aide to former Vice President Al Gore and researcher for An Inconvenient Truth
  • Alexander Conway (2006), drummer
  • Nicholas Steinke (2006), drummer
  • Samuel Shankland (2009), Grandmaster, US Chess Federation
  • References

    The College Preparatory School Wikipedia