Aspire Public Schools, a nonprofit group that operates two charter schools in East Palo Alto, Monday was singled out by the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company as one of 20 school systems that are global models for improvement.
McKinsey analysts looked at 20 school systems from around the world -- all with improving but differing levels of performance -- to extract the steps each took to achieve "significant, sustained, and widespread gains in student outcomes as measured by international and national assessments."
Locally, Aspire operates the 13-year-old, K-8 East Palo Alto Charter School (EPACS) and a four-year-old high school, East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy (EPAPA). It also operates 28 other charter schools across California.
Students at EPACS earned an 882 on California's 2010 Growth Academic Performance Index (API) -- approaching scores of some schools in the top-ranked Palo Alto Unified School District.
The Phoenix Academy high school graduated its first class in June of this year, with all of its 21 members accepted to four-year colleges.
The McKinsey report is titled "How the World's Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better." In addition to Aspire, the only charter organization in the study, researchers studied school systems from Boston to Singapore to Western Cape, South Africa.
Based on more than 200 interviews in the various school systems, the report analyzed some 600 "interventions" carried out by the systems, comprising what McKinsey said may be "the most comprehensive database of global school system reform ever assembled."
The consulting firm said it identified "reform elements that are replicable for school systems elsewhere as they move from poor to fair to good to great to excellent performance."
This week's McKinsey report follows a 2007 report by the firm titled "How the World's Best Performing School Systems Come Out on Top," examining common attributes of top-performing school systems.
EPACS Principal Laura Ramirez said, "We know that we're doing great work every day at East Palo Alto Charter School and East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy, but it's certainly gratifying to be recognized this way.
"We're very proud to be a part of an organization that is doing such important work across the state. EPACS joined Aspire in 2003, and being a part of such a dynamic educational community helps us better serve our students and families."
Aspire Public Schools was launched by former San Carlos School Superintendent Don Shalvey, who opened California's first charter school in 1992. Last year, Shalvey left Aspire to join the staff of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"The McKinsey report is a clear endorsement of the hard work and dedication of the entire Aspire team," Aspire Public Schools CEO James Willcox said.
"More importantly, this report shows that with relentless focus on instruction and the right tools, all public schools can achieve incredible results -- even growing school systems like Aspire that continue to serve more and more students."
"Aspire Public Schools is doing a great job of preparing students for successful futures," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said.