SCVi makes case for charter school-petition renewal

Attendees watch the William S. Hart School Board meeting on the monitor in the lobby due to an overflow crowd on Wednesday night, November 6, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

In front of dozens of their students’ families, with some spilling out into the halls and into the parking lot, the administrators and teachers of SCVi presented their case for renewal to the William S. Hart Union High School District board Wednesday.

Charter schools are required by California Education Code to have a chartering district and meet with officials from that district within a previously agreed amount of time, for periodic renewal. Santa Clarita Valley International’s current petition expires in 2020.

During the presentation, SCVi touted its growth and community support, and then addressed concern from members of the Hart District’s governing board about its students’ standardized test scores.

Board member Cherise Moore said she wanted more information from SCVi in the coming weeks about the school’s data with respect to performance. She expressed her concerns that their performance was not where it needed to be in terms of the state’s Education Code.

“You shared data, and the data you shared is showing some growth and I applaud you for that,” said Moore. “But there are some gaps and challenges that we have to address.”

Following the meeting, SCVi co-founder Amber Raskin said there were some surprises, but she was grateful to board members for being thorough in their work.

“I’m hopeful that they will listen to parent voice and they will allow us to continue to do what we’re supposed to be doing as a charter,” Raskin said, “which is — try new things.”

SCVi, throughout the presentation, has said it prides itself on a different style of learning, which is project-based and entrepreneurially focused.

Attendees sit on the floor in the back of the room of the William S. Hart School Board meeting due to an overflow crowd on Wednesday night, November 6, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

“I feel like one of the things I want to make sure is known, that having growth in our data is important and … having growth is a metric that allows them to renew us,” said Raskin.

Board member Linda Storli expressed similar concerns to Moore’s, asking why the SCVi presentation decided to compare scores against Los Angeles Unified School District schools, which are lower than the Hart District on average.

“You knew five years ago that these test scores, that I don’t like, you knew you had to get them up,” said Storli. “I know you’ve done some things, I want to know over the next two weeks what your plan is to get those test scores up.”

A majority of the board also expressed concerns they were overseeing a school that includes elementary school grade levels, and that it wasn’t their expertise.

The scores that were discussed 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.

Grade levels third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and 11th are all required to take these tests each year. And while the Hart District is purely a junior high and high school district, SCVi services students TK-12.

When comparing 11th-grade test scores, the only applicable high school level grade in the Hart District required to take the CAASPP, the Hart District’s 11th-graders had 79.8% met or exceed standard for ELA and 51.29% met or exceeded the standard for math. SCVi 11th-graders had 61.70% met or exceeded standards for ELA and 31.92% met or exceeded the standard for math. The statewide 11th-grade average for ELA and math was 57.27% and 32.24%, respectively.

According to data released earlier this school year, 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.

Statewide averages for all grade levels had 50.87% met or exceed 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, have showed signs of improvement, which board members agreed was a good sign. In 2016-17, SCVi had 43.01% met or exceed standard in ELA and 26.35% in math; in 2017-18, 50.11% in ELA and 27.98% in math.

Board member Steve Sturgeon was one of the board members who first approved SCVi’s charter almost 10 years ago, and while he acknowledged there still needs to be improvement, he said he was impressed with SCVi students every time he’s visited the campus.

“I had to be convinced about SCVi,” said Sturgeon. “In my time and visits to the school over the years, I have been certainly, proudly impressed with the students from the very first moment that I walked on campus.”

Raskin called herself “cautiously optimistic” when it came to whether the board would renew their charter. In two weeks, the district will give a presentation to the board with a recommendation. And at that time, the board will decide whether to renew.

For now, while they wait, Raskin said she was happy with the work SCVi has done in the past and will continue to do into the future.

“We are proud to have current students and graduates,” Raskin said, “that put making the world a better place as their top priority.”

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