SCVi charter renewed by district staff

SCVi families celebrate after hearing the William S. Hart Union High School District plans to renew their charter through 2025. Caleb Lunetta / The Signal.

The William S. Hart Union High School District’s board renewed Santa Clarita Valley International’s charter school petition Wednesday night despite district staff stating the school did not qualify for renewal under traditional California Education Code.

Charter schools are required by the state to meet with their chartering district within a previously agreed amount of time for periodic renewal. SCVi’s current petition expires in 2020.

The one agreed to Wednesday by the board will extend the school’s charter with the district to June 30, 2025.

“We are grateful for a unanimous vote for renewal, and we commend the Hart District and specifically (Assistant Superintendent) Mike Kuhlman for his diligent, collaborative and transparent process in the evaluation and recommendation of SCVi’s renewal,” said SCVi co-founder Amber Raskin.

During previous board meetings, board members expressed concerns over SCVi students’ results on state-standardized tests, while SCVi officials focused on the growth in student achievement the school has made, as well as its widespread community support.

Between Wednesday night’s meeting and the board’s previous meeting two weeks ago, at which SCVi officials gave a presentation to the board making the case for renewal, the board had asked for additional information from SCVi.

The board expressed a desire to follow up with the school’s leadership during the last two weeks about SCVi alumni achievement, retention data, where students placed in terms of test scores and their growth, according to SCVi Executive Director Amanda Fischer.

District staff wrote in a Nov. 20 report that the school’s academic performance wasn’t equal to the other public schools a student would attend if SCVi was not an option. The board, however, under the Education Code, was able to use an alternative measures framework to measure their review in terms of increases in pupil academic achievement.

In a 5-0 vote, the board approved the renewal of the charter.

The scores that were discussed during the meeting referred to the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, the state’s standardized exams, which test students on topics such as mathematics, reading and writing skills under the Common Core State Standards.

Of all grades within SCVi that took the 2018-19 CAASPP tests, 55.78% met or exceeded standards for English language arts and 36.42% met or exceeded standards for math, according to data released earlier this school year.

Statewide averages for all grade levels had 50.87% met or exceeded the standard for ELA and 39.73% met or exceeded the standard for math.

SCVi officials noted the scores, despite being lower than the district average, showed signs of improvement, which board members agreed was a good sign. In 2016-17, SCVi had 43.01% meet or exceed the standard in ELA and 26.35% in math; in 2017-18, 50.11% in ELA and 27.98% in math.

Once the decision was read, the large audience that consisted of dozens of SCVi students, families and staff cheered and left the board room to celebrate in the hallways. Although celebrating, Raskin told the board during the meeting that she realizes there are areas of improvement for the school and said she and her team would be working to communicate more with the district.

“We know that we’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Raskin said, “but we still have work to do.”

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