Ravenswood school board extends Stanford New Schools charter

East Palo Alto Academy High School charter extended two years; most elementary students will transfer back to Ravenswood schools.

Stanford University will continue its partnership with the Ravenswood City School District under a renewed charter agreement that will maintain East Palo Alto Academy High School (EPAAHS) and continue to involve the university in elementary education in the district, the Ravenswood school board voted late Thursday.

The modified charter, approved by a board vote of 3-1, means that the 250 students in the charter's high school grades will continue to attend EPAAHS, which is administered through Stanford University's Stanford New Schools. Students in the charter's fifth grade class will also continue to attend East Palo Alto Academy.

Students who will be in grades K-4 during the 2010-11 school year who have been attending the East Palo Alto Academy Elementary School will be transferred to other Ravenswood district elementary schools, where Stanford University faculty will continue to work closely with their teachers.

"We are very pleased that we will continue to be involved with students in the East Palo Alto community, which has been so enthusiastic and supportive of our presence," said Deborah Stipek, dean of the Stanford School of Education. "Stanford has a long-term commitment to the students of East Palo Alto. We are pleased that we will continue our partnership with the Ravenswood school district, and that the board is supportive of our successful high school program."

"We appreciate the cooperation we've had with Stanford, and it is in that spirit we will continue to work together," Ravenswood board President Sharifa Wilson said after the vote.

Christelle Estrada, chief academic officer for Stanford New Schools, said that Stanford will work closely with the district to assure the smoothest transition possible for elementary school students who will no longer attend the Stanford New Schools. Ravenswood officials plan a parent orientation to discuss the transition, and Stanford will work with parent leaders to connect them with the Ravenswood PTA.

In 2001, Stanford University was invited by the Ravenswood City School District to develop a charter high school in East Palo Alto. The community – with one of the lowest average incomes in California – had been without a high school since 1976, when its community high school was closed through a district-wide desegregation plan.

East Palo Alto Academy High School accepts all students and is now 20 percent African American, 70 percent Latino and 10 percent Pacific Islander; more than half are English language learners. It has a graduation rate of 86 percent – well above the state average of 80 percent overall and approximately 65 percent statewide for African American and Latino students. It also has a college admission rate of 96 percent of graduates, with 53 percent admitted to four-year colleges last year, more than twice the rate for California students as a whole. Over the past seven years, the high school has made achievement gains of 180 points on the Academic Performance Index (API), the state's test-based measure of academic achievement.

Four years ago, Stanford New Schools was formed to launch an elementary school, which along with the high school formed one K-12 charter school. When the charter renewal date came up this spring, East Palo Alto Academy Elementary was three years old and had only two years of test results for a few grades. While growing a program much appreciated by its parents, who turned out by the hundreds to support the school at the latest board meeting, the school's test scores were lower than those of the high school and of longer-established elementary schools in the district.

The Ravenswood City School Board voted 3-2 on April 14 to deny a five-year renewal of the charter, voicing concern about the achievement in the elementary grades but strong support for the high school and its successes. The board then voted 4-1 to explore a revision of the charter.

"It is a vital and appropriate role for Stanford University to work as a partner in a community where public schools face significant challenges," Stipek said. "The students, parents and staff of East Palo Alto Academy High School have great pride in the achievement of its students over the past nine years, and Stanford is proud to be a part of this accomplishment. These years of collaborative hard work by the community, faculty and families associated with EPAA have created a thriving school where there was previously no local public option, and given students not just hope, but the skills and confidence to go to college and to meaningful careers."

Luis Martinez, who graduated from East Palo Alto Academy High School in 2007, is currently a third-year student at San Jose State University majoring in business management. "I can honestly say that EPAA has been a big impact not just for me but for my family also," Martinez said. "Thanks to East Palo Alto Academy, college became a reality for me and for many other students who attend EPAA."

Lisa Lapin, University Communications: (650) 725-8396, lapin@stanford.edu

Barbara McKenna, School of Education: (831) 588-4309, bmckenna@stanford.edu