In 1999, committed teams of parents, educators, teachers and community organizations joined to address the overcrowded and under-performing schools that plagued the flatlands of Oakland. In 2000, in an attempt to tackle these disparities, the Oakland Unified School District adopted the New Small Autonomous Schools policy. Two years later, MetWest High School opened as one of the first "new small autonomous schools" in Oakland. Designed to foster student success through experiential learning and an extensive internship program, MetWest High School now serves 245 students and their families.
MetWest is one of forty public high schools around the country pioneering a model of internship-based education MetWest's 9th-12th graders travel to the campus from all corners of Oakland. The school's approach to learning is grounded in a commitment to educate one student at a time, in a tight-knit community of peers, family, teachers, and community mentors -- utilizing resources inside and outside the classroom. Students at MetWest are 50 percent Latino, 30 percent African American, seven percent White, and 13 percent Asian American. Over seventy percent of the school's students qualifying for free and reduced lunch.
MetWest's innovative model of education—preparing all students for both college and the world of work through a unique marrying of coursework and internships—has yielded excellent results:
- Every member of the school's first graduating class (2006) was accepted to a four-year college.
- All of the school's students are engaged in meaningful internships related to a field of their choosing.
- MetWest has among the highest attendance rates, the highest California High School Exit Exam pass rates, and lowest suspension rates of all OUSD high schools.
- MetWest graduates have been offered more than $300,000 in scholarships towards college.
Essential to MetWest's student success has been the network of supporting adults that has been built around students through the school's internship program. In conjunction with their teacher-advisors and family members, each student designs a customized Learning Plan focused on their interests and passions. These Learning Plans incorporate two days each week spent at an internship in the community, as well as three days each week of academic study and project work on campus and across the street at Laney College. Students work with a mentor at an internship of their choosing, learning professional expectations, communicating effectively with adults from different backgrounds, and producing real-world work. The internships give students a deep sense of how their interests play out in the adult world and provide an authentic environment and audience for their work.