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Jay
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Terry Of course I cannot speak for all charter schools, but I can assure you that Summit Prep in Redwood City (yes, the school my son attends) is not focused on high-achieving, privileged students. There are many applicants for every 100 freshman seats (this Spring there were 470 applicants for the 110 Freshman spots Fall 2009). More importantly, the Summit student body is selected by an independent, audited lottery and therefore reflects the population of the local community. Drawing from some 42 middle schools, the Summit student body is both diverse and representative of the district as a whole. Summit has a mix of 30 to 40 percent Hispanic students in most classes, and for 2008-09, 52 percent of the freshman class is Hispanic and 34 percent are white. As for students with special needs, 7% of Summit Prep’s students are qualified for special education (the district average is 10%) and have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). An additional, 8% have diagnosed learning disabilities, but are succeeding using mainstream supports and accommodations. Privileged vs. Poverty? Some students do come from some more affluent communities, but the majority do not. Statistics show 32 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. About 44 percent of Summit students have parents who did not attend college. And yes, there is parent involvement — just not hidden. Frankly, I think parent involvement is a good thing and something that has been lost over the years in traditional public schools — perhaps because so many of us today are time constrained as two income families. Because financial resources are 2/3 that of the per-student allocation in district schools, parents are asked to contribute 30 hours of service per year. This ranges from janitorial - to chaperoning dances - to coaching - to serving on school activity boards. It would be great if every parent kept to their hours commitment, but like almost every school (whether public, private or charter), it seems the same small core of families are the most involved. By no means am I claiming it’s a perfect educational institution, but for 400, very diverse families, it’s the best, tax-supported recipe for achieving the “no kid left behind” scenario that I’ve found to be true for about 70% of the kids who are being rubber-stamped through our districts high schools (including my and my two daughters alma mater). All students at Summit take the same classes (all AP), assuring they get the college preparatory curriculum they need to meet UC entrance standards. While not all do attend college upon graduating (for many reasons), the past three years, 96 percent of the school’s graduates have been accepted to four-year colleges. Perhaps you’re right when you say, “schools are typically only as good as the students they serve”. But you know, there’s no teaching without learning. It really helps when a school creates an atmosphere that motivates kids to want to learn. Regardless of ethnic, economic, mental or physical challenges, “wanting to learn” is a characteristic students at Summit Preparatory Charter share. Newsweek rankings aside, I guess students at Summit Preparatory Charter High School are privileged.