Charter high school gets off to running start Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, The Almanac Online, on Aug 25, 2009 at 2:14 pm
Ninth graders inaugurating the first school year at Everest (charter) Public High School in Redwood City got to know faculty and staff through a scavenger hunt for facts about them. And to help them with an overview of their goals, they're spending the first two weeks of school on the Stanford University campus.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 10:10 AM
Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 3:23 pm
I appreciate Mr. Boyce's story as I somehow doubt we'd hear about it on the district's web site.
At this point, Everest exists, the school has a location and a class and it's time to put up or shut up. The courts will figure out what to do about the Green Street and if the district has liabilities here or not.
Having positive stories about our schools in general seems to be reasonable community coverage and I see no reason to gripe about it.
Posted by Simple Simon, a member of the Oak Knoll School community, on Aug 25, 2009 at 4:37 pm
This will be a very positive experience for the lucky 108. I agree with Concerned Parent, the battle between the District and Everest will be played out in Court. As far as Mr. Boyce's reporting, it is a positive story for students and parents who have chosen this alternative.
Posted by district parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 4:45 pm
It is wonderful to read about a school whose administrators and faculty are thinking outside the proverbial box for ways to enhance the high school experience. Those Everest students are very fortunate. I am going to show this article to my middle school student in hopes I can get him to apply to the charters when he's in 8th grade.
Congratulations to Everest and the Summit Institute for hurdling all the obstacles thrown in your way by a Neanderthal district. Way to look backwards, Pat.
Posted by John, a resident of the Woodside: other neighborhood, on Aug 25, 2009 at 11:40 pm
With all the problems in the news, economy way down, dept piling up, State 2 weeks past issuing IOUs, continued turmoil in Iraq and Afganistan, etc. it's extremely uplifting to see this school open on time, and with the first two weeks at Stanford? Wow, how did they pull that off? Kudos to the Everest community. And they do this at a cost/pupil far under Gemma's big high schools.
Posted by Bud, a resident of another community, on Aug 26, 2009 at 10:14 am
Anyone can look at the stats for Summit, another charter school in the district. If my memory is correct, over 90% of the students were at or above the state proficiency levels. When compared to the districts scores…80% or more of the student were below state proficiency. No one wants to pay more taxes… to the 18yrs neighborhood disgruntled writer; I suggest they try to remember that California was once one the top states in education. Unfortunately, not true today. The reality of the matter is... it takes tax dollars to pay for education. We passed prop 18 many years ago which stripped our schools of the funds needed to provide our students with a top level of education. Some teachers, union, and school districts oppose charter schools. Perhaps they feel threatened by the proficiency scores achieved by the charter schools.
Posted by David Boyce, Almanac staff writer, on Aug 26, 2009 at 1:00 pm David Boyce is a member (registered user) of Almanac Online
Not to put too fine a point on it, but The Almanac, in the June 8, 2005, issue, reported an initial price of of $17 million for M-A's theater.
At the time, the Sequoia district cited worldwide shortages in basic materials such as steel and concrete for the escalating costs.
To cut costs, the district took several steps, including going with concrete block walls rather than poured concrete (a savings of about $100,000) and eliminating copper cladding for the roof that would have turned green with age (a reported savings of $600,000).
The city of Menlo Park contributed $2.6 million to this project in exchange for occasional rights to use it. The school has first choice of refusal for school-related events, however.
Posted by withheld, a resident of another community, on Aug 28, 2009 at 12:29 pm
Wow. After reading so much biased and inaccurate information, no wonder so many people aren’t sure what to think about local education. To call Sequoia Union High School district a “backward looking” and “Neanderthal district” because they don’t offer all of their incoming freshmen a few weeks of classes and speakers at Stanford is ridiculous. Or is it because they worked with the local community to build a performing arts center? Or is it because they pay their teachers a good salary? Or is it because they have “exit exam results [that] are almost at the bottom of the nation”?
The situation isn’t going to be helped with inaccuracies or outright lies.
Based on what the State says, the Sequoia District had 83% of sophomores pass the English exit exam last year and 86% pass the math. These are better than the state numbers (ELA 80%, Math 74%). These are hardly “almost the bottom of the nation”.
Neanderthal? What is backward looking about developing Biotechnology programs, an International Baccalaureate program, digital animation classes, a green technology and engineering program, a new focus on career and technical education, a medical magnate program, and maintaining and even expanding visual and performing arts when most neighboring districts have none of these? What exactly is backward looking about trying to educate ALL of the children that walk through their doors from the most well-prepared to those who have large educational deficits?
Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2009 at 10:48 pm
Sounds like a post from the SUHSD PR line. The talking points seem rather similar.
I'd agree with there being no need for name calling, but I'll also say it's great to talk about new programs, however I'd be much more interested in results. I believe there was a Newsweek ranking of schools based on student attainment (percent of students graduating, going to college, taking AP classes, etc.). The SUHSD schools didn't do too well. (I can provide more details but I'll leave it at that).
Since we want to deal in facts, let look at facts off the SUHSD website.
Just at random, I took the School Accountability report Card from Woodside. The most recent SARC showed the following percentages of students at advanced or proficient for the following subjects:
English 51%, county avg 51% state avg 44%
Algebra 16% 18% 15%
Geometry 22% 31% 21%
US History 35% 47% 40%
Biology 46% 49% 43%
Life Science 50% 48% 41%
Given the resources in the district, these numbers don't strike me as too impressive.
Now let's look further in the report. The percentages reported as scoring proficient on the CAHSEE test for English and Math respectively are: 70% and 68% for Woodside, 65% and 66% for district averages.
Now these are 2007-8 numbers, but according to the website, they represent the most recent numbers.
Keeping in mind the current state of education in California, I'm not sure I'd consider beating the state average as a great cause for celebration.
It's great the SUHSD is trying new things, but it looks a bit like rearranging chairs as the overall structure remains the same.
Posted by district parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2009 at 12:32 am
I don't think district families expect their children to attend classes at Stanford and I would never fault the SUHSD for not providing extraordinary opportunities.
I do think the disregard the district displays for about 1/3 of its student population is most reprehensible. When one of my children started at M-A, the rather large freshman class was told that half of them would not manage to graduate. I understand that this year's entering class got a similar scare lecture. According to the official state statistics, the school typically loses about 100 kids between freshman and senior year, most of them Latino, African American, or Pacific Islander.
M-A does not try to educate all its students. On the contrary, it encourages those who are bringing down the averages to drop out. It miserably fails most special needs students (ask any parent). So it is indeed ironic that the district continues to condemn the charter schools for having a better approach, one that advocates on behalf of all students succeeding and attending four-year colleges.
The comprehensives are great schools for smart, hardworking kids from supportive families. I have no problem with sending my own kids there, but I am concerned about the wellbeing of all our children, not just the privileged ones.
P.S. I won't attempt to divine what a "medical magnate" does -- something associated with health care reform, perhaps? -- but can only hope that the author is not an example of a district grad.
Posted by withheld, a resident of another community, on Aug 30, 2009 at 2:02 pm
No, I don’t work for the SUHSD PR line, if such a thing exists. I only wanted to bring a little balance to a discussion that seemed too one sided.
Why choose just Woodside or M-A as the snapshots to respond to my post, when the person I was responding to cited the entire district as being “close to the bottom?”
I took my data straight from the State. Check the Dept of Education web site if you want the most recent data from the 2008-2009 school year.
It is interesting to note the discrepancy between students’ strong performance on the California High School Exit Exam, which they must pass to graduate, and their relatively poor performance on the STAR subject tests, which they do not have to pass to graduate.
It is also interesting that one of the posters insisted that “the comprehensives are great schools for smart, hardworking kids from supportive families,” and that he/she “[has] no problem with sending my own kids there, but [he/she is] concerned about the wellbeing of all our children, not just the privileged ones.”
In fact, the same State website shows that Summit (which Everest plans to copy) shows that Summit’s population is more likely to include the privileged ones than the comprehensive schools. The district has a higher percentage of English Language Learners, Special Education students, and students who are categorized as Socio-Economically Disadvantaged.
If only Summit and Everest shared your concern for those who face greater challenges, maybe they would plan to open on in East Palo Alto instead of suing the District and wasting a lot of money on lawyer’s fees.
P.S. sorry I misspelled “medical magnet” in my previous post, I guess maybe I should fight for a place at Everest since, by your logic, any typographical errors invalidate the work of an entire school district.
Posted by district parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2009 at 11:55 pm
The district schools vary in their ethnic composition; the only school that is majority Caucasian is Carlmont. Summit and Everest, whose students are chosen by lottery from among all interested students, fairly reflect the overall ethnic and socioeconomic composition of the district.
But numbers are misleading. You could look at the M-A figures for ethnic diversity and imagine that your child would be exposed to students from a variety of backgrounds if s/he attended that school. Not true. If your child is on the high achievement track -- the one that leads to college -- her/his classmates will be other kids who come from relatively affluent families where both parents are college educated. As a national newspaper noted a few years ago, M-A is only integrated on paper.
At Summit and Everest, kids from different backgrounds take classes together. Kids whose parents have Ph.D.s mingle with the children of grade school dropouts. That level of interaction gives a whole different dimension to the educational experience. Kids whose parents buy them box lunches at Draeger's hang out at noon with kids who qualify for free lunches. And they all learn together; everyone takes college prep courses and everyone gets accepted to a 4-year college.
withheld, if you don't work for the district, why do you parrot their line about the need for Everest to open in East Palo Alto? Are you unaware that there are already several charter high schools serving that area and that those schools are undersubscribed? Please tell Pat to stop fighting the inevitable and wasting our tax money!
Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Aug 31, 2009 at 10:36 am
I took Woodside as just the first listed result from the district's web site. The numbers are all there and I did not try to either select them, but did comment they don't appear too impressive. As I understand it, the more recent data from Summit (as well as preliminary data from Everest) has numbers in terms of populations (%subsidized lunches, % English learners, etc.) that are very similar to the district as a whole. I would also echo the idea that with small school and no tracking, there is more likley to be truer integration and culural mix than in the comprehensives. Why? Because along with the special programs (IB program at Sequoia, for example), comes separation. As best as I can tell, the oft-promulgated line from the district about Summit/Everest being elitist, probably applies more accurately to these programs, but there are the larget school stats to make the bigger picture appear OK. When the boundaries were moved to force students from San Carlos feed into Sequoia rather than Carlemont, the parents basically forced the district to provide something, and hence the IB program came into being.
I'll add a few more items of interest:
It's interesting how in response to a positive story about Everest opening at all (keep in mind the stories about the location being unclear preceded this story), witheld gripes about Everest not opening in EPA. Note that in your writing, you mention education for ALL the students of the district. And in fact, charter schools must have a lottery including ALL student from the district. In serving ALL students of the district, a central location makes a lot more sense that one geographic extreme of the district, independent of where that extreme is located. It turns out that when talking about EPA, that there are several charter high schools located there already, which does again bring up the issues about the SUHSD planning and motivation. etc.
Finally, back to serving ALL the students in the district, there are studies showing the advantages of having charter schools around improves the performance of the comprehensive schools as well by providing competition. I suspect that the spectre of that competition may provide the district an incentive to be more innovative. If parents had no alternatives to the comprehensives, I have to wonder if we would see the IB program or all the other new programs mentioned in a previous post.
With regard to the waste, it's amazing to me, how one can look at the total dollars the district has spent trying to prevent Summit and Everest from existing, along with the overruns on the M-A performing arts center (what was that about ALL the students of the district) and tell me where $2.4 million fits in there.
If you have any doubts about the district having PR people, you might want to check the district's website and note that they have a communications director. Take a read of Dr. Gemma's "explanation" for why it might appear he doesn't like charter schools. Somehow, I don't have the sense he wrote it himself.
I agree, there is no reason to needlessly bash the district, but I could understand how the Everest comunity might feel they've been unfairly attacked as well and it's very clearly not a level playing field.
Posted by Woodside Parent, a resident of the Portola Valley: Ladera neighborhood, on Sep 2, 2009 at 12:07 am
Woodside High School received a Similar School ranking of a 10, which factors in the broader spectrum of students it serves. Summit received a 9. I never hear the Summit Institute address this stat. I don't feel strongly about this issue. My daughter is thriving at Woodside, and I am happy that she will have had some experience at a larger educational institution on her way to a UC or CSU. Her confidence and ability to advocate for herself has really soared in her 2-yrs at Woodside. I am very pleased with the new leadership---the school has improved much---we have a young ambitious principal with great ideas. October 14 is College Day at WHS. The ninth-graders are going to Stanford and San Jose State for tours. Every 10th and 11th grader is taking the PSAT--free of charge, and seniors will be in college workshops and meeting with college reps. Perhaps Dave Boyce should run a story on this--the depiction of the schools in the district, which Woodside is one, is just not accurate in my opinion. Kudos to Summit and Everest...I think much of anti-charter sentiment stems from some of the negative comments they have made in the past about the comprehensive schools. I have looked at the charters' scores, and it looks like they are doing a great job, but I also think that in fairness to the comprehensives, they serve a much broader spectrum of students such as students with disabilities and English Learners, which affects scores. Besides, what happened to the whole child? Are we just hung up on standardized assessments? My daughter doesn't test well, but I just proofed one of her English essays and I was so impressed with her abilities and the sophistication of her thought and delivery. Also, students who attend Summit and Everest come from families who took the time to seek an alternative. They are active parents---right there, you are going to have more academic success. There is a direct correlation. I hope that all of these facility issues get resolved so that we can get beyond this rhetoric and ugliness. We all want what is best for students--enough of the good guys fighting the good guys. They are all working hard and doing well.
Posted by Anonymous, a member of the Woodside High School community, on Sep 2, 2009 at 8:33 am
Woodside Parent: Very well said and I only wish the district were as accommodating of charters as you. The district has been transparently anti-charter and, given their actions (denying charters, fighting appeals, denying locations, changing locations, etc.) it would be difficult to argue otherwise.
I think people mistake the charters as being "anti-comprehensive" and that's simply false. You don't hear charter advocates opposing comprehensives, they simply want to offer an ADDITIONAL choice to families.
My wife and I are both products of public school systems and both attended very large, comprehensive high schools. My daughter went to Woodside High School, but she did not fare as well as your daughter and ultimately benefitted from a much smaller school with less distractions. It would have been nice if she had an alternative to a 2,500 student environment back then!
The lesson is that one size does not fit all. Wouldn't it be nice if students who were interested in music and the arts were able to attend a charter that provides that focus (think Juilliard)? And perhaps those students who wanted to pursue careers in carpentry, plumbing, auto mechanics and contruction could benefit from a school that taught them some of those skills.
We should be able to appreciate the comprehensive programs AND the charters - they are not mutually exclusive programs.
Posted by district parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 2, 2009 at 12:19 pm
"Woodside High School received a Similar School ranking of a 10..Summit received a 9. I never hear the Summit Institute address this stat."
"Besides, what happened to the whole child? Are we just hung up on standardized assessments?"
So, which is it?
Let's be realistic: there are competing interests here. As parents, we care about our children as individuals, but we also want them to do well on tests (even if we realize the tests' inherent flaws) because we want them to have as many options as possible. The schools do care about our children as individuals, but from a business perspective, they must focus on the scores, because that is how their operations are evaluated.
At some (maybe all?) the SUHSD comprehensives, students who are pulling down the math and verbal scores are given a schedule that requires them to spend a half day in math, another half in English. Great for the individual kid? No way! But the students either raise their scores or they drop out.
At Summit (and, I assume, Everest) the kids who are bringing down the averages are not isolated or placed in remedial courses. More importantly, the school maintains the perspective that the child will be able to master the material and succeed. That is a huge philosophical difference that comes from the top.
We are fortunate to have many outstanding teachers at our comprehensives, and most do care about our kids as individuals and don't devote much energy to thinking about test scores. But the administration at the schools is number-bound, and Pat Gemma plays those numbers as if he were betting on horses. Which, I suppose, is part of his job, and wouldn't be that big an issue for anyone -- if only he didn't try to squash the charters, which he wrongly perceives as the opposition and a threat to his scores.
Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: The Willows neighborhood, on Sep 2, 2009 at 6:32 pm
Regarding the posts above, I appreciate the perspective of having choice. I don't tend to think of the charters as anti-comprehensives, but as advocates of choice, but as the postings can show, people do get carried away sometimes and misdirect their feelings. I would also point out that the behavior and rhetoric from the district has been consistently anti-charter. Hence, some defensiveness on the part of charter parents and students is not surprising. It would be truly nice to see some sharing of practices/resources. My understanding is that Everest will have a fair percentage of English learners and those with disabilities so it will be interesting to see how things go.
Will charters select active parents and thus that will always be an explanation for better performance? Actually, that wouldn't explain the situations where some charters do worse. There actually was a study in Boston where they looked at students who participated in the lottery for a charter and followed up to see how students attending the charter school did vs. those who applied and weren't in (should be a pretty good control for parental involvement) and the charter school kids did better. Now that was a particular charter and the variety of charter schools makes it very difficult to generalize.
I absolutely believe there are students who will do just fine at Woodside, but also think the district (ALL the students) benefit from the existence of charters, either directly or indirectly.
Posted by Another Woodside parent, a resident of the Woodside: Woodside Glens neighborhood, on Sep 2, 2009 at 7:34 pm
I am another Woodside parent whose child is thriving at WHS. My son has learning disabilities, and the principal himself went out of his way to check on my son one day after meeting with him just once. My son felt special and has really taken off. I notice that much of this blog is comprised of people who have had negative experiences at M-A, but I urge folks to give WHS a look. With the new administration, they mix students of all levels in many disciplines and still provide academic rigor, and they also have a wonderful new Green Academy that is a school within a school. Also, just a correction---WHS does not have 2500 students---they have 1900.
I have to agree with the other Woodside parent---why can't WHS be the only school in the district with a 10 similar school ranking AND foster the whole student? Will anyone from the charter schools recognize this outstanding achievement? Woodside has undergone great change in the last two years---please don't generalize it with the other schools. I think the charters and comprehensives can co-exist, but if memory serves me correctly, when Summit emerged out of Portola Valley years ago, it defined its purpose as providing an alternative to the existing failing schools---this is what I was told at a parent meeting when my child was in elementary school. I have to say, it turned me off. Also, I appreciate Pat Gemma and the current Board for keeping SUHSD fiscally healthy---they are looking out for the interests of 8,400 students as opposed to the 500 students who attend Summit and now Everest.
I know that the WHS principal is currently going for two construction grants from the state which could bring $6M in additional revenue to build facilities. Why doesn't the Executive Director of the Summit Institute pursue these avenues like him rather than sue OUR school district?
Also, I heard that the Summit Institute chooses to serve Redwood City only and not EPA. My friends in EPA never received an invitation to check out Everest and Summit like I did in the mail. I hear much criticism about how the bigger schools have drop-outs, but could someone explain to me why and how the Summit Institute is allowed to say, "we serve this community and not that community" and then criticize the comprehensives who serve all students and all of the challenges they bring. How many student currently enrolled in Everest come from the Ravenswood District? This is really intended to be just an innocent question.
Good luck to all of our schools who serve all of the children in our area.
Posted by Anonymous, a member of the Woodside School community, on Sep 3, 2009 at 8:16 am
Another Woodside Parent:
I accept your question as innocent and I appreciate the civil discourse.
The charters do serve the entire district - not just the local area where they happen to be located. Woodside High doesn't just serve Woodside, does it? Yes, they have asked to be located in Redwood City (and that's their right, by law), but perhaps being in the middle of the district and close to transportation is a good thing for students who attend from as far north as San Carlos as far west as Skylonda and as far south as East Palo Alto.
The charters choose their students by a pure lottery so a Menlo Park student has just as much chance of admission as an Atherton student. And you should note that there are TWO charter schools in EPA already and both have capacity.
But I think your other point is far more important and it demonstrates something I've said many times before. I think the comprehensives do a SUPERB job with their most gifted students and their most challenged students - and your experience seems to confirm that.
The highly gifted kids seem to know how to block out distractions and thrive and the challenged kids get a fantastic amount of attention. In fact, if my memory is correct, the district spends something like $80,000 each on just a handful of very challenging, disabled students. Their lives are difficult enough and I don't begrudge them one bit - good for them!
But I worry about the vast majority of other students that are "in between." Those are the ones that seem to get too easily lost in this shuffle. They frequently drop out and stories about them elevating their games seem rarer and rarer.
So when I hear stories like yours or stories from parents whose kid got into an Ivy League school, I don't doubt it for a moment. But the comprehensives don't seem to do so well with the average kid (drop out rates, test scores) and I think that really misses the mark.
Again, thanks for the civil discourse. We all want the same thing!
Posted by district parent, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2009 at 9:04 am
I am not familiar with WHS so am glad to hear they have tried to do a better job of integrating the kids of different abilities and are offering more school-within-a-school options.
"when Summit emerged out of Portola Valley years ago, it defined its purpose as providing an alternative to the existing failing schools---this is what I was told at a parent meeting when my child was in elementary school. I have to say, it turned me off."
I seem to recall that when Summit began, the idea was to create a school that would be more accessible to west side families whose kids have to travel quite a ways to get to either M-A or WHS. It did have an elitist tinge in the beginning, and the first couple of classes tended to include more middle class families, but it has evolved quite a bit. For example, there used to be a way for families to get preferential treatment by volunteering -- which obviously skewed the student population -- but that has gone.
Also, consider the environment when Summit began. M-A and some of the other district schools were in PI status and in danger, theoretically, of being taken over by the state. M-A was riding a principal merry-go-round while they struggled to get back on track. A school without that kind of baggage seemed very attractive to many.
But that's history.
"My friends in EPA never received an invitation to check out Everest and Summit like I did in the mail."
I haven't gotten an invitation and I live in Menlo Park. Maybe someone in Woodside sends out invitations to families? I don't know. I do know that the kids come from all over the district so maybe they find out via word of mouth. The schools certainly do not need to recruit.
"I worry about the vast majority of other students that are "in between." Those are the ones that seem to get too easily lost in this shuffle. They frequently drop out and stories about them elevating their games seem rarer and rarer."
That is THE issue. Though I appreciate that the district is fiscally sound and the scores are high and everyone is out of PI status (right?) I know that there are many kids who are not being well served. You know what I can't get out of my head? That op ed piece that Pat Gemma published in the Almanac last winter in which he essentially said (and I am paraphrasing because I don't have time right now to look it up) "we can't expect these kids to do college prep level work." Sorry, no, that is not the attitude I want the superintendent to have. He should be expecting the kids to excel. All the kids. Not just the ones who come to him on a silver platter waiting to be served up to the UCs and Stanford.