Almanac

Viewpoint - September 10, 2008

Guest opinion: Everest, Summit charter school attacks based on misconceptions

by Julia Mangione

I am a senior at Summit Preparatory Charter High School. I was not surprised to see The Almanac's article on Everest's charter petition, as Summit students were informed about the forthcoming board meeting, and that we should anticipate a negative response. However, I was surprised to see the unfair criticisms and widespread misconceptions surrounding Summit's (and Everest's) mission, education, and student body.

Summit's mission is "to prepare a diverse student population for success in four-year colleges and to be thoughtful, contributing members of society" (www.summitprep.net). In the past six years, I believe that Summit has admirably lived up to that mission and continues to strive to achieve it with each new freshman class. I am proud to acknowledge that Everest will share that mission.

I spent my first semester of high school at Menlo-Atherton, and found that my needs as a student were met neither by the faculty nor by the administration. I was astonished by (M-A Foundation for the Future co-president Kathy) Jackson's comment, suggesting that charter schools only "theoretically educate everyone." Although this statement may be applied to other charter schools, it cannot truthfully be applied to Summit, where every student is challenged to work and succeed at the college-prep level, regardless of his/her former coursework or test scores.

In my experience at Menlo-Atherton, which may overall be serving a more diverse student body, classrooms were notably segregated based on test scores and academic ability. I found myself in very homogeneous Advanced Standing classrooms, which clearly did not represent Menlo-Atherton's student population. Furthermore, this meant that the majority of Menlo-Atherton students were in "standard" or "remedial" classes, entirely based on a standardized entrance exam, which eliminated for many of them the possibility of being eligible for admittance to a four-year college or university as an incoming freshman.

In contrast, I can say that each one of my classes at Summit (excepting foreign-language classes, which clearly have to be based on academic ability) has fairly represented the entire student body, which, based on the statistics you provide, is very diverse. Every student at Summit is given the chance to be eligible for admission at a four-year college or university, without consideration of the amount of support he/she will need during his/her four years there. Teachers at Summit do not hesitate to spend after-school hours supporting each individual Summit student to the greatest extent possible.

Although there are other complaints about Summit and Everest included in The Almanac article, I have neither the personal experience nor adequate information to address them. However, based on my experiences in two very different high school environments, I am extremely grateful to Summit for giving me the choice as a high school student to be part of a community whose philosophy and practices I can be proud of.

Admittance to Summit is a possibility for any Sequoia Union High School student, but for those who would choose this alternative, there are simply not enough spaces at Summit. Hopefully the district board will be able to see the merits of what Summit has to offer their students, and cease to see Everest as just one more "new charter school."

Julia Mangione is a Menlo Park resident.

Comments

Posted by Stephanie, a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Sep 19, 2008 at 9:55 pm

[Post removed; see Terms of Use]


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