Students at a K-8 East Palo Alto charter school have earned standardized test scores approaching those of some schools in the top-ranked Palo Alto Unified School District.
The 13-year-old East Palo Alto Charter School garnered an 882 on California's 2010 Growth Academic Performance Index (API), released Monday (Sept. 13) by the state Department of Education.
Most Palo Alto schools logged 2010 Growth API scores in the 900s, although two -- Barron Park Elementary and Palo Alto High School -- scored 861 and 896 respectively. Statewide, scores on the gauge of academic achievement range from a low of 200 to a high of 1000.
The 420 students at EPACS, as it is known, begin their academic year in July, gathering in the school courtyard at 8 a.m. each day for a brief, college-oriented pep rally before filing to class.
Each classroom flies the colorful banner of the college alma mater of its teacher -- Arizona, Calvin, UC Irvine, UCLA, Michigan, Northwestern, St. Mary's, Stanford, Vassar and so on.
Fifty-five percent of EPACS students are classified as "English language learners," 80 percent are Latino, 18 percent are African-American and 2 percent are Asian or Pacific Islanders.
Eighty-seven percent have family incomes low enough to qualify for the free or reduced-price federal lunch program.
Aspire also manages a sister high school in East Palo Alto, the four-year-old East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy, which graduated its first class in June of this year. All 21 graduates were accepted to four-year colleges.
"Aspire Public Schools experienced another banner year of performance as our team continues to build on our track record of incredible student achievement," Aspire CEO James Wilcox said.
"These results are an incredible tribute to the determination of our team and their commitment to students. They have refused to let this economic crisis derail our students' journey to college, and are truly changing the odds for some of the most underserved students in the state."
EPACS Principal Laura Ramirez said, "Our students and staff are showing what high expectations, a love of learning, and collaboration can do. I couldn't be more proud."
The first Aspire school was founded in 1992 by Don Shalvey, former superintendent of the San Carlos School District. It was the first charter school in California.
Aspire now operates 30 public charter schools in low-income communities throughout California. Shalvey left the organization in 2009 to become a deputy director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.