Selected readings on US charter schools
Pinecrest Preparatory Charter School in Orange County has made a big turnaround, going from what would have been an “F”grade in its first year (it was too small to be officially graded) to a current grade of “A.”
With a new principal, but many of the same employees and students, the school made strides after offering teachers extensive new training.
“We were looking at what students were missing academically during the day,” said Principal Yasmeen Khan. Teachers began focusing on students’ individual weak areas. Khan also pushed teachers to work with students in small groups.\
Basic stuff, but much of it was new to the school’s teachers, many of whom started there as recent college graduates. “Sometimes you just have to set them on that path,” Khan said.
The school opened in Fall 2010 with 19 students, a number that grew to 86 in kindergarten through high school by the end of the year. Now they have about 210 students.
Located in an old Valencia Community College building on the periphery of Orlando International Airport, the school has a high number of students learning English. In the first year, it faced high staff turnover.
The school is operated by Miami-based for-profit Academica, which runs more than 100 schools. The company also operates Cornerstone Charter Academy High School and Pinecrest Creek Academy in Orange County.
Student performance at Pinecrest Prep was so bad the first year that the school’s reading scores were among the lowest in the state in 2011. Nearly all of its third-graders that year were reading below grade level.
The next year, Khan began working with the school as a consultant. Based on that year’s performance, the school earned a “B,” but principal Jon Chace was replaced with Khan.
She had worked with Academica in other parts of the state and was lead teacher at Cornerstone before becoming principal last year, the school’s third. That’s when the school earned an “A.” In the last round of testing, 59 percent of students were reading at grade level and 56 percent were on track in math.
And many parents have stuck with the school throughout.
Sheila Sanantonio was one of the first parents to enroll her twins, now 11, at the school four years ago. She said there’s been a “huge turnaround” and feels that her children will get a better education at Pinecrest than they would at their zoned middle school, Walker.
“The only time it was really difficult was the first year,” said Sanantonio, who has also worked at the school for two years as registrar. “We’re not going through that anymore.”
Afterschool tutoring and FCAT prep sessions have also been helpful additions to the school, she said.
“We have been able to get to a really good place,” Khan agreed. “We’re not just focusing on test scores, but nurturing the whole child.”
Source: Orlando Sentinel – by Lauren Roth