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on Jun 29, 2011
Great job Summit! I didn't see MA or Woodside on the list. Maybe after some reflection Mr.Reilly and Mr.Zito will be able to explain why their schools did not make the list. Hopefully they will not use money as an excuse since their student population receives about 1.7 times more funding than a Summit student. Also, they cannot use the demographics as an excuse since Summit's almost mirrors MA.
Please Mr Reilly and Mr. Zito, help me understand why the results are so different for the 3 schools?
(Two threads on EXACTLY the same topic! (Web Link) Why does the Almanac always do that?)
I think there is a place in our district for both charters and comprehensives, and there is a lot that the comprehensives can learn from charters. But the attributes cited in those magazine lists are often specious.
So here is what none of our principals will tell you.
Summit gets accolades because its AP/student ratio is so high, but when you look at the results of the AP tests, the average grade is below a 3 -- failing! Moreover, the charter model only works with a small school population (note that demand for a Summit education did not result in its expansion; rather, a second charter opened) and with teachers who are dedicated to the mission. You simply will not find that dedication in a comprehensive school.
The flip side is that the charters offer limited courses and extracurriculars. If you want your kid to pile on the extracurriculars because you believe that is the best route to acceptance at Harvard or Stanford, you don't want a charter for your kid. Similarly, although it's clear that the charters do a much better job with struggling students than the comprehensives do, it's not nearly as clear that the charters offer the same level of academic challenge to the high performing student that the comprehensives do.
We district families are fortunate to have options.
Where should the comprehensives be learning from the charters? You won't find this in a Newsweek article, but the comprehensives need to embrace their below-average students. Instead, they try to motivate those kids to drop out, afraid they will bring down the almighty test scores or otherwise negatively skew the school profile. The embarrassingly small percentage of these students who do make it through four years often find themselves unable to apply to a Cal State or UC -- because from day one they were put on a non-academic track. It is scandalous, and an issue that merits a journalistic expose or a lawsuit.
If I were to ask hard questions, that's where I would start. Not "why didn't M-A make the Newsweek list?" Who cares? Your motivated M-A student will do just fine.
There is room for both charter schools and comprehensive high schools. It drives me crazy that people attack the large high schools. Our son would hate to attend Summit...too small and not enough activities and options. He is perfectly happy at Woodside and will succeed in life.
Good for Summit to make this list. Unfortunately, not every student who wants to attend Summit can get in. Let's not attack the other schools because kids who want to go to Summit do end up at the other schools. Let's cheer and support all the schools! Each child deserves to be supported as they navigate the challenges of being a teenager. Seeing bad and rude comments about the school that they love is not being supportive!
Also, Waiting for Superman was filled with lots of inaccurate information about Woodside. The film people did not talk to anyone at the school.
Now that Summit has all these students taking the AP tests, I hope they can match how well M-A students perform on them. Granted Summit has a larger percentage of their students taking the tests, but are they all ready? Perhaps that's something the charter schools could get from their public school counterparts. Apparently we can't adopt some of the simple logic policies that the charter schools use, like, stay at school until your work is done. Of course students can CHOOSE to do that already, but those are the students who necessarily need all that extra help. Perhaps more parents will pressure the schools to provide more of this extra service and then convince their children to work harder.
I think Summit would say that exposure to AP tests, with whatever readiness one can manage, and repeated exposure over 3 or 4 years is much better than conventional tracking.
Why should kids with advantages have AP test opportunities guaranteed while those without knowledgeable and involved parents are left to convincing teachers and administrators that they've got the goods -- and that's if, a big if, these students and their parents appreciate the great importance of trying college level work while still in high school.
Having a choice is a good thing, but if it were up to the Sequoia Union High School District there would be no choice -- they hate the Charters and had to be taken to court repeatedly in order to grudingly accept their existance.
If the comprehensives were serving all students there would never have been a need nor an interest in even one charter school, let alone two. But students who come from underperforming K-8 school districts will NEVER catch up at the comprehensives. And students who are not very strong self-advocates or completely independent learners will fall behind and be lost in the vast middle at Woodside, M-A, Carlmont, etc. where teachers don't even know all of their students' names, don't recognize them out of the classroom, and don't answer calls or emails.
So thank heaven for Summit and Everest where smart, capable students who need a supportive environment are no longer left for dead. Now they can get a solid, well-rounded education from a school where every single teacher is committed to their success, where the stress level is more reasonable and where they will be prepared to go on to a four-year college. As opposed to the other SUHSD schools where the best they could hope for might be a two-year community college or the military.
The reality is that the Summit students are ending up in exactly the same colleges, with the same qualifications, as their equally motivated counterparts at comprehensive high schools. That is the absolute truth, I know many of these students and they are, honestly, ending up in the same places. This sentence by "Priorities", "...students who come from underperforming K-8 school districts will NEVER catch up at the comprehensives." is quite simply untrue. One of my dearest friends has a son who come up all the way through Redwood City Schools and Sequoia HS, and is now a senior at Stanford. Note that he didn't get there by attending the "pay $20K per year for your 5 year old" private schools, nor did he attend Summit.
Similarly, I know 2 girls who attended the same K-5 school in what "Priorities" would describe as an "underperforming district." One girl stayed in the aforementioned "underperforming district" through high school, while the other attended a private school for middle school and Summit Prep for high school. They are now both in the same class at the same university.
What some of you folks at Summit don't get is that your child might have done just fine at one of the comprehensive high schools, or even better, if they needed a larger learning environment. As several wise folks above said, it is nice to have choices. Why undermine the choices that other parents and students make? They know their preferences better than you do. Summit (and Everest) are not the right schools for every student.
A Parent -
I love people who use the success of a single child as PROOF of the success of the comprehensives. The very fact that the student you cited in your example is currently a senior at Stanford only shows that the student was well above average and arguably could have succeeded anywhere. Your sample selection is just a bit limited and highly biased.
I know there are a few students at charter schools who drop out or don't pass their final proficiency exams. Their failures do not demonstrate the failure of charters any more than isolated examples of success provide proof of performance at comprehensives.
The issue isn't the top 10% or the bottom 10%. The comprehensives appear to do well with those exceptional students. In fact, the bottom 10% seem to consume an inordinate amount of money, which, while compassionate, is a questionable use of scarce resources.
It's the middle 80% where the comprehensive school fail and fail miserably. If you look at drop-out rates, failure to pass proficiency exams, fail to get into colleges that their performance doesn't hold a candle to Summit or Everest.
But, please, tell us all about your nephew who attended MA or Woodside and now attends Princeton.
First of all, I found the tone of your response to be unnecessarily sarcastic and rude. I wonder why you feel it is appropriate to response in that way. You are awfully defensive of Summit Prep. A school like Summit is a tool in a tool box of educational solutions. I know students who have been utterly failed by Summit Prep, and others who enjoyed it there. But it is not for everyone, nor does is offer the panacea that some of its supporters seem to think it does.
Comprehensive high schools can do great things. I, personally, attended one, as did all of my siblings (not all the same school) and we have done quite well, thank you. Why did we do well? We had some excellent teachers and some who were marking time until retirement. We had some inspiring moments and some not so much. All of our public high schools need more academic counseling services (our public colleges and universities also need more of these services, as they are the first thing to go in a budgetary crisis.)
But I would argue that charter schools created by affluent parents from Woodside, Atherton, Portola Valley, Menlo Park and Hillsborough so that their children wouldn't have to attend the larger high schools, are not the solution. They serve such a small percentage of our students and fail to address what the comprehensive high schools must address, which is the needs of a larger student population and not 'cherry-picked' group of students who are self-motivated enough (or their parents are self-motivated enough) to apply for a place at a charter school.
Oh, and my nephew didn't attend MA or Woodside, but now that you mention it, he did attend a low-performing comprehensive high school, and he's now a doctor who is doing a fellowship at Stanford. Must be a coincidence, of course....
I was with you until you started in about the affluent parents and the implication that somehow Summit and Everest damage the system with cherry-picked students.
A) students are picked by lottery, B) the schools operate at considerably less cost per student and arguably turn out better results, C) they are public schools operating according to the state law with the support of many local taxpaying families, and D) they, as Pogo noted, do address the middle of the curve, the forgotten middle, the middle that the comprehensive schools forever promise to help this year "really, for sure this time" and don't.
Why? Because they need to do what the charter schools are doing and they're too bound up in regulations or inertia or ego to do so. This fence cannot be whitewashed!
First, thank you, Joe.
Second, A Parent, thank you for fulfilling my sarcastic request with the great news about your nephew. Yet ANOTHER isolated (and rare) example that ignores the incredible drop out rate (over 50% in many of our schools) and the failure of our graduates to pass an exam that is intended for ninth graders. The tragedy is that some, like you, continue to hail the rare successes and ignore the failed majority. Is that what our public schools are all about?
I am also a product of public schools (grades 1-12), a large comprehensive high school school (4,500 students for grades 10, 11 and 12) and even a public college. And, like you, I think I've done okay. I'm not sure what that proves, except that they USED to do a pretty good job. They clearly don't anymore.
Because you know it is false, your comment about "cherry picking" now borders on obscene. You know they select their students by lottery and if you've watched that lottery, you know that "affluent" students from Woodside and Atherton often leave empty handed and less affluent from EPA and RWC get in. It may interest you to know that the demographics of the charter schools is actually MORE diverse, MORE economically challenged than the comprehensives. But I'm sure those facts - published by the school and available on the internet - won't stop you from making your false claims.
Finally, no one has ever said, much less suggested, that charters are a "panacea" as you stated. They are, as you said, one tool and one alternative for SOME students. Unfortunately, the Sequoia Union High School District does not echo your sentiments about them being a useful tool. They have fought - tooth and nail - every single charter dating back to Aurora. They have done their best to discourage parents from supporting them, from finding them a reasonable facility, and from providing them financial support. They only time the District has complied is when they have been sued, ordered by a court (which they have even defied) or just before they have had to answer to a judge.
Personally, I've never believed that one size fits all and I'd like to see DOZENS of charters. Charters for students who do not want to go to college; charters for students who want to enter a trade; charters for students who are interested in the arts; charters for students who are academically challenged; charters for students interested in science; charters for students interested in athletics.
We are failing the masses. Maybe we need to rethink the educational paradigm we've been using for the past four decades.
Again, I do not understand why you feel that to be rude, sarcastic and, indeed, presumptuous about the knowledge of those who do not entirely agree with you.
First of all, I am very knowledgeable about Summit Prep and its origins. I don't know if you are, but the school WAS started by affluent parents of affluent communities and it did start out with a preference given to the children of those parents. It was through the insistence of the SUHSD that the practice of giving priority to "founding families" was discontinued. Some of those "founding families" did their "community service" by buying very expensive equipment for the school.
Second, I do not "hail the rare successes and ignore the failed majority." I never said that at all, in fact. I am very, very aware of both the successes and failures. I submit, however, that it is the very same affluent and educated neighbors of yours and mine, the same who founded Summit, who have repeatedly undermined the work of the comprehensive high schools by drawing resources away from those students who need them the most. Please explain to me how, in the economic reality that our school districts are operating under right now, that "DOZENS of charters" are going to be financially feasible. We have to repair our school system and continue to excellent education for an increasingly stratified student population. We need to be able to serve your children, as well as the children of non-English speaking immigrants. I don't think the solution is for those who are more fortunate to pull their children out of the public schools and abandon the principles that make high quality public schools an imperative to the health of our society.
No, we need the folks who want their children to attend elite universities to a) understand that their children can have those opportunities when attending a public high school and b) understand that they have an obligation to their community to bring their energy and support to the public school process.
We do all have to insist on educational reform, but we do not help the children who need it the most by turning our noses up at our public schools. Those who do that are contributing to the problem.
As to your suggestion that there be dozens of charter schools for a variety of interests - that assumes that students, at age 14, know that they want to be a scientist or a ballerina or a plumber. Did you know what you wanted to be at 14? Some students do, but most do not. So why compartmentalize their education at such an early age? Our students need a broad and comprehensive education in order to be prepared for colleges, universities and trade schools or to enter directly into the work force.
I'd like to hear your concrete, non-sarcastic, suggestions for how to bring relevance and quality to education for all students, not just a chosen few.
A Parent -
I am also well aware of the origin of the charters, apparently pre-dating your experience. Aurora was started by a group of very underprivileged families in Redwood City - there was no elitism there - and yet our local school districts fought it, moved it and did everything humanly possible to dissuade parents. I am also well aware of the grandfathering of the founding families into Summit - a practice that was abandoned in its second year of operation. Whether you live in Atherton or East Palo Alto, you are at the mercy to the identical lottery drawing. I'm not sure how entering a lottery - where more than half of applicants are not accepted - provides a refuge for children in rich families wishing to avoid the larger high schools.
Regarding charters, at 14 years of age I may not have known my career path. But there are a lot of students at age 16 who know they don't want to go to college, who know they want to be in the arts or who know they want to learn a vocation. We do little to nothing for these kids - except subject them to a standard curriculum until they get frustrated and drop out. They make up a significant segment of the student body at a comprehensive and an even larger segment of drop outs. So why not give them the resources they will need for the rest of their lives? Obviously, the comprehensives aren't working for them. (And this concern isn't exactly "elitist," is it?)
Regarding funding, as you must know, charters are public schools. If students choose to go to a charter instead of a comprehensive, their funding follows them to their charter (and the comprehensive doesn't need to pay for teachers or supplies for those charter students, either). There doesn't need to be MORE funding, just a reallocation of existing funding. Obviously, trustees and staff at large districts don't like this because royalty never wants to reduce their kingdom.
Although it isn't always true, we are fortunate that our current slate of charter schools is far more cash efficient than our comprehensives. Perhaps that's because charters aren't saddled with bloated bureaucracies and huge often antiquated facilities replete with high maintenance costs, high utility costs and expensive payments to bond holders for plush performing arts centers.
So, here's one idea: why not sell off one or two of those dinosaurs and consolidate an ever decreasing enrollment into fewer schools. The district can lease smaller, less expensive facilities for charters - far more efficient and far more flexible. Just provide them with the funding that those students would ordinarily have at their comprehensive and save all that legal expense of fighting them.
So I answered you and there was no sarcasm (at least not much).
Now, how about addressing my point about SUHSD fighting every single charter, every single time? The charters do serve a purpose...
Well, you gave it a try and the sarcasm to substance ratio was greatly improved - thank you;-) Actually, I know quite a bit about charter schools, and I do know that you are incorrect, the founding families preference was not eliminated after two years. It was eliminated after the law changed, requiring Summit to apply for charter under its local school district (it was originally chartered under Tuolomne County.) The SUHSD board insisted, and rightly so, that this practice of giving preference to "founding families" be stopped, however the sibling preference policy remained (and remains as far as I know) which continued the advantage for founding families as long as they kept having younger siblings wishing to enter...
As to the "lottery" - the students who enter the lottery are self-selected. They have parents or other adult supporters who have the knowledge and means to follow the lottery process. Yes, the lottery (except for the sibling policy and other preferences, such as those for children of teachers and staff)is otherwise fair. But the charters are not necessarily getting applications from some of the students who might be in most need of this type of academic environment.
In addition, Summit accepts students from all over SUHSD and outside of SUHSD (space permitting.) Students with few resources and who live a long way from Summit are unlikely to be able to attend due to lack of transportation. It is important for Summit supporters to understand that, whatever the benefits, it must be recognized that there is not equal access to this school by all students, and that some students are disadvantaged in both the application and transportation process.
That having been said, I must take exception to some of your other comments which I don't believe are based in fact. First of all, I don't believe enrollment is declining in any of the comprehensives. Although the birthrate peaked in the echo boom in 1991, which would suggest a decline in high school aged children now, schools on the Peninsula generaly have increasing enrollment.
Second, in one breath you advocate for appropriate education for students interested in the arts, and in the next breath you take aim at "plush performing arts centers." While I agree that MA's performing arts center is a bit plush (but my understanding is that the funding for that $25 million building was not all from bond money and that there was also joint use funding, but I could be wrong. Carlmont HS's performing arts building is quite nice and functional and cost $15million, by comparison), these facilities serve those very students who are interested in dance and music and theater. A student who is interested in drama, for example, but attends Summit, has no performing arts facilities on that campus (last I heard, they took the train down to Mountain View to use the Community School of Music & Art facility, which is a music facility, not suitable for drama, musical theater or dance...)
I would like to also know where you get your data about "high maintenance costs and high utilities costs." Newer buildings tend to have more efficient systems built under newer codes and a more stringent energy code. And I have not seen any underutilized facilities in SUHSD. In fact, a lack of facilities was a factor in the tussle over facilities for Everest, was it not?
Still on facilities - I toured the office building that Summit was originally housed in and I have also toured its current building, when it was High Tech High School, and I must say that the HTHS building was at least substantially remodeled to make it a more appropriate academic facility. How anyone was supposed create a successful academic environment in a building completely unsuited to that purpose was beyond me. Office buildings are designed for offices, not schools. Don't discount the value of good school design to the educational process.
There is nothing in the data to suggest that more smaller schools are cheaper than fewer larger schools. There is data to suggest that smaller learning communities are better for students, which is why I've noted that most large comprehensive schools have broken their student population into smaller learning communities.
I think we agree, as do most people, including the same school board and administrators you demean with your comments, that education reform is badly needed. But your comments about "royalty" are really inappropriate and suggest that you are choosing a very black/white, charter good/comprehensives bad point of view, which isn't going to forward the argument at all. Both comprehensives and charters have their place and the demonization of the SUHSD board and administration by the Summit and Everest supporters does nothing to further either the argument or the process of education reform. In the end, all will have to work together and the problems that charters are NOT solving will need to be addressed by proponents of charters. I think administrators and school boards understand that charters are here to stay, but until there is sufficient funding, the fighting in the mud over the scraps of funding is unbecoming and unhelpful. I hope we can get beyond that.
A Parent -
At least we're ending on somewhat of a positive note which I also appreciate. I think we both agree that charters have a place and we both agree that they are not a panacea.
We disagree that charters are in any way intended to be a publicly financed private school for rich kids. During the school year, I drive by both Summit and Woodside High almost every day and they both appear to be incredibly diverse. Additionally, as I said, the demographics of Summit - at least according to the District - are actually slightly more diverse and economically challenged than comprehensives.
I do agree that taking the initiative to enter the lottery requires some motivation by a student and/or their family but now that clearly crosses ethnic and economic lines. You are probably aware that fully one-third of the entering freshman class at the district decided to enter that lottery. That kind of attraction is difficult for the district to explain.
With regard to your comments about a charter for the performing arts, I do think that having a dedicated campus would foster more creativity and be more beneficial than an overpriced, underused, plush performing arts center. The performing arts is not about venue, it's about heart.
With regard to expensive overhead, I have no direct data because the district does not provide it. But I have and continue to lease buildings for my businesses. I can only imagine the utility bills for those large high schools! The efficient buildings are the the ones that house Summit and Everest, not M-A and Sequoia. Small point, but I wanted to be responsive.
My biggest issue continues to be the attitude of the district which is decidedly anti-charter. You concluded your remarks with this comment: "I think administrators and school boards understand that charters are here to stay..." Honestly, I disagree because their actions reveal a genuine and consistent hostility toward charters. The trustees and administration resist them, they resent and downplay their success and they do everything humanly possible to quash them and discourage students from applying to them. In that respect, we simply have to disagree.
By the way, I'm guessing that more than half of the districts incoming freshman will be applying to that lottery... and that speaks volumes.
Thanks for your comments, Pogo, and I do, also, appreciate the more positive communications.
Here's some numbers. From an article this Spring on the District website: "Enrollment projections reveal upcoming surge
The districtâ€™s recently released Enrollment Projections Report reveals that enrollment in Sequoia district schools is expected to be stable for the next three years. This will be followed by a surge in enrollment (starting in 2013-14) when students who are currently filling the bulging ranks in feeder school districts transition to high school. The Sequoia district is predicting growth from 8,212 in the current year to 9,137 by 2017-18. Although the Ravenswood school district has been experiencing a modest dip in enrollment and Portola Valley and Woodside districts have remained fairly stable, enrollment in other feeder districts has been on the rise, including in Belmont-Redwood Shores, Las Lomitas, Menlo Park, Redwood City and San Carlos. Total enrollment in feeder districts this year is at an all-time high of 24,269, which is up from 22,691 just five years ago."
Enrollment at Summit is about 400 students. That is about 4% of the District. If Everest reaches the same enrollment, together they will serve less than 10% of the District. In order to serve all of the students projected, there would have to be 23 charter schools in SUHSD. Do you think that is practical? Or even possible? While it is great that some students thrive at some charter schools, they currently do not meet the needs of most of the students living in the District. So, what is the solution? Open 23 more charter schools and get rid of all of the comprehensives? What about the students who thrive at comprehensives and want the "big school" experience?
I'm interested in knowing how the charter model will address the needs to 9,000 high school students? I assume that Summit and Everest, in order to continue offering a small learning environment, will not be expected to contend with the growing enrollment.
So, do you see what I mean? That's great that some students are happy at Summit (and I do know some students who didn't like it, left, or stayed but felt (or their parents felt) that they were not well served at Summit, so it is definitely not for everyone.) Is Summit essentially conducting educational triage?
And I do not agree with you about the attitudes of trustees and administration. Summit is not taking on the problems that those people are tasked with solving.
Finally, I have some problem with the non-elected boards of the charters. Yes, it is good to have interested folks serving on those boards, but who do they answer to? Do they answer to the taxpayers who fund their school? Do they answer to the voters? There is a trade-off there between accountability to the public for how public funds are used and the autonomy from regulation that charter schools enjoy. It may work at Summit, but the charter history is littered with ones that didn't make it, didn't fulfill their promise and didn't use public funds responsibly.
High Tech HS has been very successful in the San Diego area and they have used their model to spawn a larger network of charter schools. The one up here didn't survive, but elsewhere they've been highly effective. Why is that? Are the leaders at Summit and Everest prepared to expand their model to be more inclusive and truly serve the majority of students?
Only time will tell, but until charter school leadership recognizes that they have an obligation to work with the larger educational community to solve problems on a larger scale, there will be some us vs. them.
A Parent -
Once again, I'm not against comprehensives, although I do think their performance, especially with the middle 80%, has a lot of room for improvement. I've never said get rid of all comprehensives, just the dinosaurs.
I consider two brand new charter schools that are running efficiently and effectively and accommodating TEN PERCENT of the district is quite an accomplishment (even more impressive considering the resistance they faced)! And you don't have to open up 25 charters and they don't have to handle all 9,000 students.
I'd just like to see the district be more receptive and supportive when a charter hits their desk instead of stamping it "DENIED" before they even read it. They have only to open up new charters as the opportunity and legitimate petitions present themselves. I can see having a few big schools in the district and a dozen charters. I've mentioned the several areas of focus before - I would add foreign language immersion, at risk youth, all girls, all boys, military to the mix. It just takes an inspired and motivated group of parents.
You asked who do these charters answer to? They answer to their students and their families. See what happened to the EPA charter managed by Stanford - they are shutting down. That's what happens when a model fails... people vote with their feet. The district should know that.
I do thank you for bringing the data about increasing numbers of students at the district. All the more reason for more resources, not less. But I would suggest - and I'm not being sarcastic - that unless the district improves its drop out rate, there will be plenty of room.
I still take issue with the district's position on charters. They love to say that they support charters, especially when confronted about their performance or vouchers. Unfortunately, the district's actions couldn't be more negative if they tried.
And I'm not sure why the district built a single facility for ALL of their charters, especially on 5th Avenue in Redwood City. I suspect, they are trying to make it as inconvenient as possible, but that would be too cynical. The district doesn't have to purchase land and build structures - there are TONS of empty building in the area just waiting to be leased and they are in far more convenient locations close to mass transit.
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