Wednesday, February 10 , 2016, 10:47 am | Fair 74º

Up for Renewal, Santa Barbara Charter School Faces Questions About Student Achievement

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Santa Barbara Charter School is up for its charter renewal in October, but district trustees have expressed concerns about the achievement scores and curriculum model for the school.

A public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 8 with the charter proposal, school administrators and the Circle of Trustees that govern the 20-year-old charter school.

Ultimately, the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s Board of Education will decide whether to approve the charter again.

The renewal process itself is strictly outlined by the state Education Code, with 16 specific items to consider, according to Santa Barbara Unified Superintendent Dave Cash.

“Our analysis is, did they meet it or did they not?” he said.

The K-8 school is housed at Goleta Valley Junior High School’s campus, and has a combination of classroom-based and home-based programs, including independent study.

It has a cap of 285 students, which it often has enrolled, according to the charter proposal.

Many people love the school, but its students have performed lower historically than other schools in the district and other progressive schools, board member Kate Parker said this week.

“It’s a real red flag to me,” Parker said.

At a recent meeting, the board briefly discussed the charter proposal and asked for some more information to be included before the public hearing.

Parker requested more detail about the textbooks and curriculum the school uses, and pointed out that every award mentioned in the report as “evidence that they’re making progress” was before 2008.

There’s also no discussion about how the Common Core State Standards would be implemented, or at least how students would be prepared to meet those standards when they go to high school.

“I expect any application for renewal to have that included,” Parker said. 

Board president Monique Limon asked for enrollment, parent-satisfaction survey answers and student demographics information for the school. 

Santa Barbara Charter School has a history of not reflecting demographic data of the Santa Barbara Unified School District or the Goleta Union School District, and there haven’t been discussions to address that, Parker said.

Santa Barbara Charter is one of three charter elementary schools overseen by Santa Barbara Unified: Peabody Charter School has been a charter school since 1993 and serves students from preschool to sixth grade; and Adelante Charter School, formerly Cesar Chavez, formed in 2010. 

Adelante was created after its predecessor raised major concerns about curriculum and assessment.

The school overhauled its leadership and charter, and the Board of Education approved the new plan with 52 specific conditions before giving the final OK in July 2010. It’s a K-6 dual-immersion language school, the only one in the district.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

» on 10.01.13 @ 08:10 AM

More from the two- or three-tier system of school quality without calling it that. Separate but equal still prevails, with the presidential elementary schools the bilge of the school quality.

» on 10.01.13 @ 02:00 PM

The useless unions wont let us have vouchers.

I wonder why?? HMMMM..Choice,competition,competence.??

Its your 10K per student we pay, but they tell you we must send our kids to schools that look like Mexico that dumb down our kids.

» on 10.08.13 @ 08:33 AM

In this article the school board questions Santa Barbara Charter School’s (SBCS) test scores as well as how SBCS will address Common Core Standards. I think these are not the right questions to ask.  It is not surprising that a school that does not teach to the test and that has a high percentage of parents refusing testing would have low test scores.  The real question is why parents who have the option of sending their children to higher scoring schools choose instead to send them to Santa Barbara Charter School.  Every year SBCS has a waiting list.  Clearly it offers something valuable not found at other schools in the district. Research has shown that certain skills such as problem solving and persistence are more predictive of life success than test scores. These are skills that SBCS fosters through its inquiry approach and its focus on social and emotional intelligence.

As the parent of a child who excels at sitting quietly and listening and who is academically focused I know that she could score well academically at any school.  We are in the Mountain View School district, the highest scoring school in the Goleta School District.  We chose instead to send her to Santa Barbara Charter School in order to encourage her to find her voice and stand up for herself—attributes that are fostered at SBCS.  She has attended SBCS since Kindergarten and is now in the fourth grade.  Her STAR test scores are advanced in all categories. She does not receive tutoring or other out of class instruction.  I help her with her homework only as she needs it.  I have, however, taken a little time to coach her about how to take the STAR Test - not in terms of content, but strategy.  I’ve told her its a game and here is how you play it.  I know that many of my friends from the SBCS community are against testing and believe it can be counterproductive. Some refuse to have their children tested.  Others tell their children that they really don’t care about test scores at all. Also many parents of children with learning disabilities (many of them unlabeled because their parents don’t want them labeled) send their children to SBCS because the teaching styles here work well for all children, especially those who don’t respond well to traditional methods.  Of course this affects test scores, and sadly SBCS is evaluated based on these scores. 

As a former teacher with over a decade in experience and a Masters Degree in Education from Harvard University and as a parent who has spent countless hours in the classroom I can testify that Santa Barbara Charter School provides a quality education following the best research based practices.  In fact, I believe that SBCS will have an easy time transitioning to the Common Core curriculum because an inquiry-based approach has been embraced since the inception of SBCS. Santa Barbara Charter School will have a head start over other schools in the district in this area. 

I understand that the district is considering taking back classrooms from SBCS because the middle school has closed.  This doesn’t make sense since the elementary school then grew so that the overall population remains the same.  As there is a waiting list to get into SBCS it seems foolish to force a decrease in enrollment over a facilities issue.  I’m hard pressed to imagine what the district would do with these two run down portable classrooms anyway.  I’m guessing they are the most run down classrooms in the district since SBCS has benefited little from the recent taxpayer bond funds. 

It is very disappointing that Santa Barbara Charter School is viewed by some as the ugly stepchild of the school district rather than a treasure.  SBCS should really be used by the district as its pilot school testing out and teaching new practices.  Throughout the country schools are beginning to recognize the importance of providing social and emotional instruction and are struggling to implement approaches. SBCS has a long-standing and successful program in this area that could be a model for other schools.  My hope is that through the renewal process and the many testimonies of SBCS parents that the school and the public will better recognize the important function that Santa Barbara Charter School serves. 

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