News

Three local schools land on state's 'worst' list

'Preliminary' list includes Stanford-run charter school in East Palo Alto

Three local schools -- including a charter school run by Stanford University -- have landed on the California Department of Education's "preliminary" list of the state's worst-performing schools.

One of the schools, Edison-Ronald McNair Intermediate School, had its charter revoked for poor performance in 2008 by East Palo Alto's Ravenswood City School District.

The Stanford-run East Palo Alto Academy Elementary School was reorganized with a new principal last fall and recently petitioned Ravenswood trustees to allow it to continue operating.

The third school on the list, the K-8 Costano, has a new principal and has been cited by Ravenswood officials and others as a campus in the midst of a turnaround.

The rankings, representing the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state, were based on state achievement tests and graduation rates, the Department of Education said.

Given the fact that one of the schools had its charter revoked two years ago, it was unclear whether there was a time lag in the state data. Department of Education spokeswoman Pam Slater could not immediately be reached for comment.

The department said the "preliminary" list will be reviewed Thursday by the state Board of Education and then be sent to the U.S. Department of Education for final approval.

Once the list is final, each school will be required to engage in one of four school intervention models and be eligible to apply for federal funds to implement the changes.

"We are . . . puzzled by the list the state generated," Ravenswood Superintendent Maria De La Vega said today.

"However, there is money to apply for continued improvement and, with all these cuts, it may benefit us to be able to maintain and enhance our current positive trend and minimize the impact of the budget cuts."

Representatives of Stanford New Schools, the non-profit that runs East Palo Alto Academy Elementary School and a sister high school, could not immediately be reached for comment.

However, in interviews last December, Stanford officials acknowledged the Stanford charter elementary school had not yet met expectations.

"I think we're still learning," School of Education Dean Deborah Stipek said at the time.

"We've only been in business for three years.

"In a lot of ways we've been very successful in the kind of emotional and family support, but our kids' skills are not up to what they need to be. It just takes time to get things right."

A contingent of Stanford officials recently appeared before the Ravenswood board of trustees seeking renewal of the school's charter, which expires this year.

"We were not satisfied with our students' achievement gains (in the first five years of the charter)," Stanford said in its petition for charter renewal of both its elementary and high school.

"There was significant disruptive turnover in leadership and teaching at the school sites, and we needed greater clarity in lines of authority, decision-making processes, and communication.

"Understanding these challenges, this year we embarked on a process of profound reflection and re-design at all levels of our system, from governance and management structures to instructional practice and the use of data to drive decision-making.

"The new tools we have brought to bear on the analysis of student performance data have put us in a much better position to provide the kind of differentiated and engaging instruction our students need to succeed."

A report by the San Mateo County Grand Jury last May concluded that "charter schools in East Palo Alto give students in under-performing schools successful alternatives to traditional public schools."

In particular, the grand jury cited high test scores in East Palo Alto Charter School, which is managed by Aspire Public Schools, a non-profit charter management company; and the Edison-Brentwood Academy, run by EdisonLearning Inc, which was launched by entrepreneur Chris Whittle and former Yale University President Benno Schmidt to pioneer the use of private management to transform low-performing public schools.

The grand jury said it was too early to judge the success of the Stanford charter elementary school.

"The East Palo Alto Academy Elementary School is only in its third year of operation," the grand jury said.

"While scoring low on most measures so far, its affiliation with the Stanford University School of Education brings Stanford's resources, research, and innovation to the school and hopefully, over time, to the district."

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by been there
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2010 at 10:18 am

Stanford Dept of Ed, please realize that when you do not put skill building on an equal footing with social/emotional and you choose not to teach the basics but to merely expose kids, it takes a social/emotional toll later in the child's education.


2 people like this
Posted by Herb
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 9, 2010 at 10:45 am

> In interviews last December, Stanford officials said they
> knew the Stanford charter had not yet met expectations.

With 400+ children who live on the Stanford Campus, there has always been the question why the University simply doesn't run its own school--using its Staff and grad students to design and guide the school, rather than expecting the Palo Alto taxpayers to subsidize them.

Guess the answer to that question is now on the table.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:09 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Declare victory and go home. No more diaspora. No more busing. No more excuses. Pray these kids will forgive the loss of opportunity.


Like this comment
Posted by Heather
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:54 am

EPA is like Haiti. There's only so much "the man" can do by reaching out with a kindly but highly paternalistic hand. In the South, African-Americans have built their own schools universities, churches and communities. And they are doing quite well thank you. The intellectual elites of the North, East, and West -- who look down their long noses at the South -- could learn a thing or two.


Like this comment
Posted by Sad to hear this
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:57 am

This news is heart-breaking ~ so many young people without the foundation to create a better life, much less to level the playing field.


Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 9, 2010 at 1:06 pm

"While scoring low on most measures so far, its affiliation with the Stanford University School of Education brings Stanford's resources, research, and innovation to the school and hopefully, over time, to the district."

That's not a solution, that is the problem!

Just give every parent an education voucher, and let them choose among an exploding market of new academies that will open. The market will weed out the bad ones, and reward the good ones.


Like this comment
Posted by Just pay for it
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 9, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Hey, why not, John? Private education under the mask of vouchers sounds great. Or there's always the semi-private, charter-school route to take or build upon.

How about just funding education to the same levels as the 47 or so states that continuously beat CA?!

Then again, we have “the best health care system in the world” (I heard the governor of VA say that in his recent rebuttal to Obama, so it must be true. Republicans don’t lie). So, why not do the same for education: If you can afford it (property and parcel taxes), you get it. If you can't, well, you are just uninsured. Oops, uneducated. Same deal....

Also, isn't it odd that kids who don't speak English very well do poorly on tests written in English? Go figure!


2 people like this
Posted by been there
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Stanford Dept. of Ed. - your three year learning curve is half of a child's elementary school education and as much as 1/3 of their life so far - doing objective research before starting a project is something Stanford professors should be familiar with - you are finding out the hard way but still have your job - the kids are not so lucky


2 people like this
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"Also, isn't it odd that kids who don't speak English very well do poorly on tests written in English? Go figure!"
Who says the EPA kids don't speak English very well?
Go over to Cupertino and find out how well first generation Asians do.
Enough screwing around with kids. Give them an education so they can form their own opinions.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter Wiener
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 9, 2010 at 4:47 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Ravenswood
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2010 at 5:56 pm

For all who do not know this, the Ravenswood school district had only taken over Mcnair school less than a year ago, so they would never be the ones to blame for the poor education. They were a charter school until a year ago. And Castano which is also run by the Ravenswood School District had the highest jump in API test scores in the district. They jumped 60 points, thus proving that these school are on the move to be part of the higher rank. As for the Stanford Charter School, I do not know much about there own school and what is going on when a prestigious college is running one of the lowest test scoring schools in the area.


Like this comment
Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 9, 2010 at 6:01 pm

I've been working in Ravenswood for about 10 years. It is definitely a district on the way up! And yes, there is lag in the stats. Costano had a 60 point gain in its test scores last year. McNair was a mess as a charter and is improving. Charter was revoked in June 2008, so they've only had 1 full year as regular school. Stanford School has the name, but is being run by researchers, not by teachers. Their score went down 8 points last year. They started by taking an entire 6th grade class from Costano, and Costano has better test scores than Stanford school. Here's the data from 2009: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Not so Bad
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 9, 2010 at 10:09 pm

At least EPA students are still alive. They might have a second opportunity later on. Other who died are for fire arms or things like that not of stress at school.


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Walter's point about Cupertino and Asians is well taken. I doubt anyone here will dispute it.

The point it raises is what should be debated. Are Asian immigrants more successful due to nature or nurture?

Either way it's a condemnation of Liberal social policy.


2 people like this
Posted by narnia
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 1:20 am

I seem to remember there was a time in which Asians (chinese in particular) were considered stupid and incapable to learn (also the irish, the welsh, the italians, the polish.....etc) I also seem to remember that that was when they were building the railroads.
All can learn. But we need good schools.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter E. Diot
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 10, 2010 at 1:48 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2010 at 7:47 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."
I do repeat Kipling, Hoffer, Rand, Heinlein, Postrel and occasionally myself, but life keeps asking the same questions.
I love Palo Alto, that is why I grieve that we producers, in our concentration on producing, have forfeit political leadership to theoreticians and academics.


Like this comment
Posted by silver lining
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 8:56 am

It will be sorted out with the "race to the top" program. All the kids in these schools can now apply to attend Palo Alto schools.


Like this comment
Posted by Went to School in EPA
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 10, 2010 at 9:25 am

When I was growing up me and my siblings went to the schools in EPA and did really well. When I went to school in Ravenswood District we had teacher who actually cared and wanted the children to succeed. We had good teachers like
Mrs. Thomas, Ms. Bigsbee, Ms. Cooksey, Ms. Chapman, Ms. Harris and all the others. Now you have a bunch of teachers who can care less. I’m sure there is a few that care but not many. The school district needs to get there act together and actually hirer teachers that actually want to teach the children and just there to collect a check. Stop passing the child to next grade when you know they don’t need to be passed in the long run it will help them, its not helping them if you just keep passing them so you don’t have to deal with them. The neighborhood has gotten worse because SOME parents just stop caring. Start looking at what your kids are doing in school and around the neighbor and stop trying to be there best friend and be a parent you know who you are I’m not talking about all parents in EPA just the ones who don't take the time out to make sure there kids aren't out there goofing around. Take time and make sure your child understands the work that is put before them help them make something of themselves.


Like this comment
Posted by kb
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2010 at 9:32 am

Why don't some of the rich Palo Alto people help out the folks of EPA.


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2010 at 10:13 am

Silver Lining - actually, kids will not be able to apply to PA schools because of Race to the Top. Districts are not required to take students if it will cost them money (since we are basic aid, it would cost us more than we get from the transfering student's district) and we are not required to take students if we are already overenrolled, which we are.

KB- lots of Palo Alto residents donate and volunteer in the Ravenswood school district.

Went to school in EPA - I agree that am amazing teacher can make a difference, from what I understand, Ravenswood is making great progress in hiring and more importantly, keeping, great teachers.


Like this comment
Posted by Ravenswood Teacher
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 10, 2010 at 10:47 am

Went to school in EPA - If you think that the teachers in Ravenswood are teaching "just to collect a check" you are sorely mistaken.


Like this comment
Posted by Not Walter
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 10, 2010 at 12:59 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Murphy
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 1:22 pm

From a longtime school watcher. I remember just a few years ago that one school in EPA had a principal who permitted and encouraged teachers to look at the standardize tests (and then teach the test). This was followed by generous bonus checks to the teaching staff for raising test scores. And then there is the esteemed Stanford School of Education whose faculty come up with brilliant ideas which they explore and promote in print but fail to test. They publish -- not perish -- then utilize grad students to develop teaching materials marketed so profitably. Hey it's a living. School boards adopt new curriculum that has never been tested. State committees adopt texts with blank pages. School text book selection committees sometimes include beginning students! Teacher merritt pay, such a splendid idea, can depend on teacher assessment by the most mediocre teachers and principals. Can it be that public education is as messy as our for profit medical mess?


Like this comment
Posted by Went to School in EPA
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 10, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Ravenswood Teacher, If you read what i posted I didn't say ALL teacher's. If the shoe fits wear it. I know a couple of the techer's who work in the district and they aren't just there to collect a check. The bottom line is Ravenswood Schools aren't as good as they use to be.


4 people like this
Posted by FairmeadowMom
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Wow, I am so glad I saw this article. Our babysitter's 8 yr old son has gone to the Stanford New School (our east palo academy) since it started 3 yrs ago. She found out 2 months ago that he could not read, I mean AT ALL, did not recognize the ABC's if not in order,etc. They told her (the principal) that she had to work with him everynight reading to and with him,and if he did not pass areading comprehension test in two months that he would have to stay back a grade. We thought this was crazy at the time, for several reasons, number one being she can barely speak English herself let alone read it, and it seemed quite unreasonable that a school, esp. one touting itself for underprivileged kids, would not have figured out over 3 yrs that one of their students could not read. It seemed as though they were setting him up to fail, which he ultimately did last week, out of 50 questions he was only able to answer 7, incorrectly I believe. We have been incredulous that the school did not step up and work with him the past two months- and they blame him completely. They tell her that he "does not want to read and he is just unwilling to do it and they have done all that they can"- What? Does this strike anyone else as a bit nuts? I thought a school's job was to work with kids to succeed, not fail. My husband and I tried to contact the principal ourselves last week so we could go in and meet with him (and our nanny, who is a single mom) so we could try to help her understand what was going on since she herself has been so confused about this. He has refused repeatedly to set up an appt. Now she is not sure if her son will be kicked out of this school, which was one thing they threatened her with if he did not learn to read by the test last week, or if they will just keep him back a year. I am so disappointed in this whole situation. The article definitely clarified some points for me though, and made me realize that it seems as though Stanford failed with this whole entire school, not just our babysitter's son.


2 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2010 at 2:14 pm

it's time for educators to prove they are not just making endless excuses - we need accountability. That also applies to students and their parents. A parent suddenly "discovers" his/her child can't read?????


2 people like this
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2010 at 3:03 pm

anonymous - If you don't speak a language well and can not read it, how would you be able to tell f your child can or can not read in that language? I can't tell if my son's calculus homework is correct, because I don't "speak" calculus. I rely on the teacher/school (hopefully sooner than 3 years later) to let me know.


2 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 10, 2010 at 7:13 pm

p.a.mom - I am astonished...it seems a fundamental responsibility to introduce your young child to learning in the early years, before he/she enters the school system - reading is about as fundamental as it gets. Colors, shapes, words....It doesn't mean you need to read Shakespeare. If you, the parent, are not literate, get the tutoring and become literate before having children and that huge responsibility. I believe most libraries offer this service for free.
This has nothing to do with Calculus.
If I move to France, I have been told, my kid will have to speak French in the schools unless I pay to enroll him/her in a private international or American school or something. That is the way it is.


Like this comment
Posted by been there
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 11, 2010 at 11:30 am

Fairmeadow Mom, Contact the Palo Alto CAC immediately to help your babysitter's child. There are many Fairmeadow alums in the group so you should be able to make contact. That child should have been tested at the age of 7 for learning disabilities such as dyslexia. What Stanford does is ignore these children until it is too late. The children fade out of their sphere of influence and they continue on with children who can learn in the style they promote. I urge you to offer to pay for private testing at the Children's Health Council or Morrissey-Compton Educational Center for this child who has been neglected by their school administration.


Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 11, 2010 at 11:37 am

anonymous - I am astonished at your lack of compassion for a single mom who I'm sure only wants the best for her child. Unless you know her circumstances, you should not condemn her for not becoming fluent in English and literate before having children.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Fairmeadow Mom


It is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil.

In schools like this it is often the case that when the child of a poorly educated isn't doing well, the school knows that the parent is not going to be on top of the situation and not going to intervene. There are probably many things that can be done, but because the parent is not able to advocate for the child, nothing will be done. Therefore, it is imperative that if you can, you become the advocate with the parent. You are the one who can make a difference if you make enough noise with the parent in tow.

Thankfully for this young boy, he has someone who cares enough to do something with the school to help him (you). There must be a huge number of children in a similar situation where the parents are not educated enough but are "trusting" that the "good American schools" will give their child a good education. It is not because the parents are stupid, just not well educated enough to be able to do anything about it. This is a cyclical situation and if intervention can be made, it will benefit the parent as well as the child.

Go for it, is what I say.


Like this comment
Posted by FairmeadowMom
a resident of Meadow Park
on Mar 11, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Thanks so much paloalto mom and the other (helpful and kind) people who responded/commented on my post. We are definitely following up and trying to figure out how to help him as best we can. I must say though that I cannot believe the lack of compassion in some who said that basically it was the mom's responsibility. This is a single, 52 year old woman who has worked her entire life (already she raised 4 adult children) and this 8 yr old of hers is a child she actually adopted from her own country so that he would have a good life. She works SO hard to support him and take care of him, and in the 3 yrs she has worked for us I have seen how selfless she is and what the word "underprivileged"truly means. These are people who do not have the access to the help for their children that we lucky ones who live here in Palo Alto do . We have been so blessed to have the education and basic know how that so many don't have. She always comments on how lucky I am that when one of our children is sick, I can call the doctor and take him right in to be seen. She has to wait days, literally, or go to the ER and we know how much fun that is. It is definitely NOT her fault or that she is stupid. To 'anonymous', were you "sold" to one of your brother's older friends when you were 13 and had your first baby at 14? Probably not. Our nanny never had a chance to get an education,let alone finish a normal childhood. We should count our own blessings and help others, not judge them. We will be judged by how we have eased the sufferings of others. That is a line in a book I just finished, and I am trying to live that every day now.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2010 at 8:26 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Nameless
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 11, 2010 at 9:44 pm

You lost me at Governor "wisely."


Like this comment
Posted by Nameless
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 12, 2010 at 5:41 pm

We need to support these schools. I suggest we form a group to raise money. We'll call it We United Schools and Youth. WUSY would seek to raise money by taxing new residents provided they have displaced a resident who really did not love PA. Do you support WUSY? Once we raise $1,000, we will split it between the dozen schools on a per capita basis. If achievement is raised, everyone could have a WUSY.


Like this comment
Posted by Josy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2010 at 10:48 am

Stanford should declare victory and retreat. The Ravenswood Elementary School District is doing better than a Stanford Charter School. Those poor kids being used as experiments of the Educational Department. How will they ever get into Stanford?


2 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 14, 2010 at 11:04 am

kb says: "Why don't some of the rich Palo Alto people help out the folks of EPA." We do it's called the Volunteer Transfer Program (or Tinsley program). Palo Alto has almost 500 students in our schools from Ravenswood Elementary, and our tax dollars help pay for their education.


Like this comment
Posted by EPASally
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2010 at 4:45 pm

It's the high school that's on the list. The high school actually exceeded the 50 point API gain over 5 years that was expected by the state, but the CDE did not look at the full 5 years of data, due to the fact that the state CDS code was changed 4 years ago when the elementary grades were added. The high school does very well, with an 86% graduation rate, 96% college-going rate, and 53% rate of 4 year college admissions – more than twice the rate for African American and Latino students in the state as a whole.


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