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Currently, the number of students hovers around 435. The school mascot is the Puma, and the school colors are black and silver. The school code is 053270.
According to Newsweek, Pacific Collegiate is 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. However, as indicated in the "Awards" subsection below, these awards have little meaning.
The school was founded in 1999 by a small group of educational visionaries, including Reed Hastings, who served as President of the California State Board of Education for two terms under Governor Gray Davis, and now serves as CEO of Netflix. The school is known also as "Pacific Collegiate" or "PCS". From 1999 to 2004, it rented facilities from the neighboring properties of the First Congregational Church and High Street Community Church, as well as borrowing space from Westlake Elementary in 2004. Since the fall of 2004, Pacific Collegiate has occupied the former campus of Natural Bridges Elementary. There are some who question the use of having a high school and a middle school crammed into what was originally intended to be an elementary school.
In 2005, the original 7th grade class of 1999 graduated from Pacific Collegiate, marking the first group of students who had completed the entire curriculum at PCS. The Class of 2005 was also (at the time) the largest class to graduate from PCS, at 60 students (twice as large as the Class of 2004; indeed, it was larger than all of the previous graduating classes combined).
At the end of the 2008 school year, principal Andrew Goldenkranz announced his resignation. The exact reason is unknown.
In 2006 PCS was named California Charter School of the Year by the Charter School Association. 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. PCS's music program, lead by Scott Nordgren, has produced many high ranking musicians, such as the LeBoeuf brothers, and continues to win second place 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 issue of U.S. News & World Report. Now, P.C.S is currently #7 in the nation and the 1st Charter School.
However, the U.S. News & World Report rankings are based solely on Advanced Placement Tests  and Advanced Placement Tests bear "little relationship to students' later performance in college" . 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 , 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 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". 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 . 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 . In the February 2007 lottery for admission, minority enrollment was up significantly, though is still well below city and county levels . 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 .
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.
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 to fulfill graduation requirements.. Dance is only a one-year class, as is Video Production.
The foreign languages offered are Spanish, Latin, French, and Japanese. Mandarin Chinese will be offered starting in the Fall 2009, replacing Japanese as the fourth language. All students are required to take levels one, two, and three of at least one language. The Advanced Placement level is optional.