The Lake Elsinore Unified School District and Sycamore Academy of Science and Cultural Arts boards have each agreed to provide two representatives to meet regularly to discuss how to address and improve the K-6 Charter School’s academic rankings and scores to meet specific benchmarks.
The decision follows the issuance of a Notice of Violations and Notice to Cure and Correct by the district to the Wildomar-based charter school. The notice resulted from a lower-than-expected academic ranking based on state-required tests.
The district board also requested that the school report when a student drops out and to provide the student’s last address to the superintendent.
The recommendations came following a joint meeting of the district and Sycamore school boards Monday evening.
An audience of parents, teachers and students from the charter school filled up the district board room and overflowed into the parking area.
Numerous speakers addressed the gathering and called on the district be less antagonistic and more willing to communicate with the charter school. Those speaking expressed anger and concern about the potential of the school being closed.
They also spoke about the successes at the school. One speaker called the school a diamond in the rough.
And they insisted that one year of testing results were not enough to make a sound judgment about the academic success of the students.
The charter school operates on a philosophy of constructivism, according to officials there. Constructivism teaching is based on the belief that learning occurs when students are actively involved in the learning process.
The teaching style is designed to foster critical thinking with the goal of creating motivated and independent learners. Supporters of the system say that students are happier and more productive.
District officials insisted that those worried about the school being closed were overreacting and the district was simply requesting improvement.
“It is not my intent to close the charter school,” said Susan Scott, district board president. “We are not here to antagonize. But you are getting notice.”
Sycamore school legal council Richard Hansberger responded that a communication gap exists between the district and Sycamore school. “And you could legally move to revocation at any time,” Hansberger said.
Sycamore school representatives challenged the way the state judges a school’s success based on test scores and school rankings. District Superintendent Frank Passarella agreed that the system is not perfect.
“It’s the card public schools have been dealt,” he said, adding that lawmakers and school officials in Sacramento make the decisions on how schools are scored and pass them on to local school districts.
Sycamore school received a similar-school ranking of 1 out of 10 with 10 being the highest ranking. The school’s statewide ranking was a 6.
Also, the school was ranked 94th out of 101 similar schools in its group.
But Sycamore school had an academic performance index of 804, which is considered high for the area.
In terms of bench mark scores, which the district considers critical, Sycamore school came up short in English language learning and math. As a result, the school hired a consultant.