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Editorial: Everest opens auspiciously, despite Sequoia district's obstacles
Original post made
on Sep 2, 2009
The founders and leadership team of the area's new charter high school should take a bow. In spite of all the obstacles placed in front of them by Sequoia Union High School District officials, Everest Public High School leaders got the school off to an impressive start in its Redwood City facilities with an Aug. 19-20 student orientation.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Wednesday, September 2, 2009, 12:00 AM
Posted by John
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 4, 2009 at 11:10 am
1) Spot on editorial. Kudos to the Almanac.
2) If anybody is "stealing" taxpayer monies, it is the SUHSD. They wasted money on a site that nobody wants in a residential district that is totally inappropriate for a 400-kid school in the day. They wasted money (hundreds of thousands of dollars of unnecessary legal bills) fighting tooth and nail against Everest, and were unanimously over-ruled at two state level decisions. Finally, w.r.t. on-going operations, SUHSD spends about 50% more $ per kid per graduate than does Summit Prep HS; since Everest is copying the Summit Prep model, presumably they will also be far more economical with taxpayer receipts than SUHSD ever was. Taxpayers would benefit substantially by having the Summit/Everest model educate all the kids in the SUHSD, not just several hundred. We'd save millions of dollars, and produce a better product, on average, to boot.
3)I'm glad that some kids get great experiences in the SUHSD schools. But many do not. Menlo-Atherton remains the #1 worst performing school w.r.t. the federal "No Child Left Behind Act" in the state of California. Roughly half of the Hispanic boys who meet the SUHSD requirements to graduate high school, fail to pass the California High School exit exam, which measures 8th grade math skills and 9th grade English language skills; they can take the tests as many times as they wish starting in the 10th grade, and the best score counts. Clearly, far from all the kids are getting great educations in the four SUHSD big high schools.
4) Calling the charter schools "quasi private" is flat out silly. There are no admission tests nor special requirements, same as for the other four SUHSD big high schools. There is no fee, no tuition charged, same as for the other four SUHSD big high schools. Students are chosen by lottery from all those who apply. Statiscally, these two charter schools match the districts that they operate within: same % of Hispanic/white/black/etc. kids as the SUHSD, same % of rich/poor/middle class kids as the SUHSD, etc.
Dave Hill, a PGA pro, complained after shooting a big score at the US Open many years ago, "the course is so long, the rough so deep, the fairways so narrow, the greens so fast, that the course plays too hard. The USGA officials are just trying to embarrass the world's best golfers." Sandy Tatum, head of the USGA was in the same press conference, and said "Mr. Hill, we are not trying to embarrass the world's best golfers; we are trying to identify them."
Similar argument that the charter schools are trying to destroy the public schools. Nope, you've got that entirely turned around. The charter school movement is trying to IMPROVE the public schools, by remaining within the public school system: the limited funding, the broad range of student preparation/ability that walks in the 9th grade door, the broad range of socio-economic families, the broad range of races and cultures, etc.
Keep up the great work Summit Prep, and Everest. Hopefully, the two new members to join the SUHSD board this fall (after the elections) will be much more thoughtful, will finally put the interests of the students first, and will take advantage of the tremendous example and innovative methods happening right under their noses (in the charter schools), copy those that work into the four big schools, and stop wasting time/public money/energy trying to kill perceived school competition.
By every metric, the experiment of Summit Prep HS is an outstanding success! Identify the elements that are responsible, and copy them them into the four big SUHSD schools. Nobody is saying "destroy the AP track at the four big schools". For those elite students, the SUHSD system works great. But what about the other 95% of the kids?
Posted by Morgan
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2009 at 3:53 pm
Thank you, Concerned parent, and I'm glad you asked. Although it's incredibly personal information, I think it may serve to benefit the thread if I share some of my experience with you.
When I was in middle school, I remember my friend bragging about his "genius" sister of his that was taking four APs at once at the cost of her entire social life. I never fathomed that I would take more than a single AP class in high school. My years as a student from 1st-8th grade were dreadful as I squeaked by, barely passing my classes and almost getting held back a few times. At in eighth grade, I tested into and was invited to take an honors Algebra class at the related high school to the school I was attending. This was a morale boost for me, and I felt like I could take it, and was very excited. Throughout the year, I fell far behind in that class and, looking back, completely realize it was because I was too terrified to interrupt class with a "stupid" question on a daily basis. The lack of support from the teachers, in and outside of the classroom (I never had access to the teacher once outside of the classroom, not that being inside the class was much help either-because questions were looked at as slowing down the class and that wouldn't be tolerated). The purpose of me prefacing my attendance to Summit with this story is that, many people conclude that Summit inappropriately places its students in AP classes, because students are underprepared. The reason the kids are so successful in AP classes at Summit is because the teachers give limitless time to addressing questions and making sure no one is behind in the lectures and classwork.
I think my background, upon graduating middle-school puts me in the category of a "graduating underachiever". I might as well add, since Im going all-out here and telling the public a huge amount of my personal life, that since I was in 6th grade I was diagnosed with ADD. Throughout my life I hated it and am still convinced I was misdiagnosed(I don't take medicine for it anymore, at least). Imagine being the child at a parent-teacher conference, and your parents are justifying your poor performance by saying, "It's not his fault, he has Attention Deficit Disorder, look at the medicine he's been prescribed."
Attending Summit was so unusual to me, coming from an even smaller elementary school environment. The class sizes were roughly the same size, that is why I will hold my comparison to the other high school class I attended in 8th grade as well. Since freshmen year, the entire class was divided into 10-15 person groups and assigned to one teacher-who would be their "mentor" throughout the groups' entire time at Summit until graduation. The mentor groups would meet at the end of class for 15 minutes to talk about events, personal life-anything. I cannot tell you how helpful this was to personally know just one of the teachers right from the start-and to be able to talk to them on a personal level. I was still initially very shy to talk to some teachers, when I needed help, but having a mentor was my way of feeling comfortable talking with at least one teacher about it-who would likely let my issue be known to the appropriate teacher. Conversely, when I was not doing well in another class, I would always know my mentor was going to ask me about it. No one can hide or slip beneath the cracks if you will-I was no exception.
The teachers there were tough in that they would really really push me and other students who could emerge to be better. In my english class for example, although my writing was average at best, would always appreciate any signs of extra effort I put in and would talk to me personally and challenge me to do even better the next time. There were a few excellent students in the class and they were recognized and challenged furthermore, but not half as much as the students who were in the middle and low ends were. Thats why I had such an amazing experience at Summit, because I was pushed and pushed and never was allowed to reached a plateau where I could relax and feel like I was done improving. For me there was little time to "coast" in class-my teachers could always tell if I wasn't pushing myself when I didn't think i had to improve, and would personally push me further. Like everyone in my class, I ended up taking AP English, Environmental Studies, Government, US History, Statistics in my senior year alone. I've spent countless hours outside of those classes talking and working with teachers, who were consistently there-something I never fathomed doing before entering Summit; and something I didn't think was possible for anyone, achieving a social life, succeeding in 5 AP classes and dedicating upwards of 20 hours a week to extra curricular sports in my senior year alone.
To look back and think that I believed my high school would be a repeat of my elementary school experience is sad. I can only speculate what my experience at another school would have been, but I do know students I felt to be much more motivated and smarter than me were not retained in some of the advanced courses they took at other high district schools. Personally, I likely would not have planned ahead enough to take the right courses to get into a UC by graduation. I think Summit gave the most outstanding results for students like me, who wouldn't likely succeed in tougher classes, and needed plenty of motivation.
With Everest being run by the same management that leads Summit and is being taught by some of the original Summit teachers, I know it is in good hands and should perform as a parallel.