Stanford charter schools in EPAA could get extension

April 20, 2010, 1:05 a.m.

Stanford New School, the University-operated charter school in East Palo Alto, faces an uncertain future after the Ravenswood City School District Board denied its five-year charter renewal in a 3-2 vote last week. The board is now set to consider a two-year charter extension on Thursday.

A product of the Stanford School of Education, Stanford New School, which includes an elementary school and a high school, together called East Palo Alto Academy (EPAA), ranked in the state’s lowest 20 percent of schools based on test scores last month.

“The primary reason the charter was not renewed was the minimal gains in student performance,” wrote Ravenswood Superintendent Maria de la Vega in an e-mail to The Daily.”We learned a hard lesson Wednesday night that there is little room for learning in the current policy environment, or for efforts to find a balance between preparing students for tests and fostering the other skills they need to become productive citizens,” said School of Education Dean Deborah Stipek.

The high school component of the School of Education project began about nine years ago. In the past seven years, the high school increased its Academic Performance Index (API) by 181 points.

“Stanford took a risk to start a school in one of the most challenging communities in California,” Stipek said, “where most children live in poverty and many arrive at school with little English.” A majority of the schools’ students are non-native English speakers.

Supporters of EPAA, which has about 520 students, point to its gains in areas outside of standardized testing. The high school completion rate is 86 percent, compared to California’s overall rate of 80 percent. The schools’ fact sheet indicates that 96 percent of graduates are admitted to college, and more than half are admitted to four-year colleges.

But numbers for the elementary school, which has only been “a real school” for three years, according to its chief academic officer, were low, driving the state’s ranking and the board’s decision not to renew EPAA’s charter.

Though board members displayed support for the high school, its “fate is tied to that of our elementary school,” Stipek said.

Stipek remains hopeful that the successes of the high school will encourage the board to reevaluate its decision.

“I hope the Ravenswood School Board will give us some time to achieve in the elementary grades the level of success that we have reached in our high school,” Stipek said.

The board voted 4-1 last week to discuss a shorter two-year charter extension.

Meanwhile, Christelle Estrada, the New School chief academic officer, said improvements to the elementary school, including one-on-one tutoring and “intervention” groups for students who need extra help, are being developed.

“We delineated a lot of changes that we were already planning to implement,” Estrada added. “We’re hoping that what we gave them will make a strong case for considering an extension.”

The board is set to discuss EPAA’s charter at its meeting Thursday.

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