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District raises concerns about school site
Original post made
on Jun 16, 2009
Officials from the Sequoia Union High School District are criticizing the efforts of Everest Public High School to set up operations in Redwood City and open in September.
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posted Tuesday, June 16, 2009, 10:56 AM
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Posted by Concerned parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 23, 2009 at 4:55 pm
Concerned from Portola Valley, you bring up many issues but offer little in terms of practical solutions. There are a few points to consider, however.
1) To talk of the generic charter school is not too meaningful as charter schools are quite heterogeneous in terms of approach and performance. If you are specifically referring to Summit and the schools of the SUHSD, I would submit that sample sizes at Summit will be too small to be able to make a statistically meaningful statement. If you want to look at some of the charter schools further south, there are some charter schools that have taken up running some of the worst performing schools in LA and turned them around. There is the Harlem Children's Zone in New York which is working at the elementary school level and markedly outperforming the loacl public schools. I'm not saying that any given charter school will be better than the standard public alternative, but there are clearly some success stories out there.
2)While in theory, it doesn't matter where one goes to school as long as they appreciate the opportunity, in fact for high school age kids, having an involved adult as a mentor can make a huge difference. The Summit approach builds this into the educational experience, whereas, from personal experience, the large comprehensives do not and some children can fall through the cracks. Again, it would be nice if that didn't happen, but it does. These children may better achieve their potential at a smaller school, and that option should be available.
3)I'm completely confused by the statement that we need to press for better middle school education and we can't do that by holding some back. We can only assure readiness for 9th grade by having some standards. If students are not ready for 9th grade, just because they have turned a certain age does not mean they should be moved on. This approach (social promotion) has helped create the problems of students who are out of place in a school.
4)Having good quality high schools will easily convince high scoring students to attend the comprehensives (actually those parents). This is not done by removing choice (the district's preferred approach). Note that if there was general satisfaction with the schools available, charter schools would not be oversubscribed and require a lottery. The district has also moved the areas that feed into Sequoia (enlarged cachement area) to include part of San Carlos that used to feed into Carlemont. This action combined with denial of intradistrict transfers to Carlemont has resulted in an increased enrollment at Sequoia. I strongly suspect this has driven students from the district toward charters.
5)As far as money following the student, that refers to operating money. Charters don't have the option of funding buildings with bonds. In fact, as best as I can tell, charters don't have to cost anything. With fewer students, SUHSD does not need to spend the same amount. I would have to believe that they could find a few classrooms on the Sequoia campus that are being underused that could be used for Everest at virtually no cost. There are a variety of other creative solutions that the district could propose but there appears to be an amazing desire to avoid working cooperatively with the charter schools. The charter process is rather transparent and SUHSD initially turned the charter down. IF they are then surprised that Summit/Everest persisted, it demonstrates poor planning.
6)Regarding the statement of diversity made: "the student body does not match the diversity of students attending other high schools. If you say it does, you certainly have no comprehension of the range of students that attend our schools." First, I would wonder on what data you make your rather strong, statement. Second, in a strict sense, given that the number of students at a given grade level at Summit is, by design, limited to 100 students, there are limits as to how diverse the group can be (there obviously can't be more than 100 different groups represented). On the other hand, in terms of there being Asians, African-Americans, Caucasians, Hispanics, Pacific-Islanders, qualifiers for lunch supplementation (taken as a surrogate for low socio-economic status), all groups are reasonably represented. From what I can tell, the approach is to take all students, at whatever academic ability level they start high school, and work to get all students to a college level before graduation. True, it would be nice if all students were better prepared academically for 9th grade, but shouldn't schools be able to teach all types?
7)Finally, while it might sound good to say people should just go as far as they can for themselves, we need to understand that the future we are educating our children for is global, multinational, and multicultural. Most major tasks will need to be accomplished via teamwork. Learning how to think critically and work cooperatively to solve problems will allow our children to be leaders of the future. It is true that it should be acceptable for students to respectably opt into a "vocational" track, but even in that case, thinking skills will be useful.