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East Palo Alto Academy Fact Sheet

East Palo Alto Academy Fact Sheet

Stanford has a long-term commitment to the students of East Palo Alto, and is currently working closely with the the district

Editor's note: To read letters of support from EPAA High School students and graduates, please visit Stanford New Schools.

There has been much interest in recent days in Stanford University's partnership with the Ravenswood City School District and its operation of the Stanford New Schools charter school. Stanford has a long-term commitment to the students of East Palo Alto, and is currently working closely with the the district to identify solutions that will best support the students in this community. Following is background information on the charter.

In 2001, Stanford University was invited by the Ravenswood City School District to develop a charter high school in the East Palo Alto community. The community — one of the lowest-income in California — had been without a high school since 1976, when its community high school was closed due to desegregation. Students from the district (at that time 100 percent African American) were bussed out to surrounding districts from which most of them failed to graduate.

The East Palo Alto Academy High School (EPAAHS) — which accepts all students and is now 20 percent African American, 70 percent Latino, 10 percent Pacific Islander, and more than half English language learners — has made great progress over the years since it was founded. Current measures of its success include:

• 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.
• A college admission rate of 96 percent of graduates; with 53 percent admitted to 4-year colleges last year, more than twice the rate for California students as a whole.
• An Early College program in which 125 of the school’s students earned more than 550 college credits last year while they were still in high school, with more than 40 percent earning an "A" and many graduating with a full year of college already completed.
• Achievement gains of 180 points on the Academic Performance Index (API), the state’s measure of academic achievement, over the last seven years.

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, EPAA 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 to allow the school to continue with modifications. The terms of that agreement are currently under development.

A Record of Achievement

Stories in the media following the board's decision have suggested that one of the nation’s elite universities has been running a failing charter school. These stories missed many of the facts.

EPAA's high graduation and college-going rates speak to the success of the school’s well-established high school division. The success of the school is also shown by the students who have succeeded there when they struggled previously in other schools. Unlike many schools that lose students each year, EPAAHS gains more students in each successive grade. About 33 percent of the school's students transferred into the school, many of them having had unsuccessful experiences in the high schools they originally entered. Even when they come to EPAAHS with low test scores and lacking credits, EPAAHS faculty help them catch up and get ready for college, offering them the full roster of college preparatory courses and the additional tutoring, as well as the skills classes offered to all of its students.

Many accounts have also overlooked the fact that that the state evaluation of the elementary program is based on only two years of test scores for a few of its grades, as the school has been growing up new grades each year; and failed to note that nearly all schools serving disadvantaged students like those enrolled at East Palo Alto Academy sees significant improvement only after the several years of the hard work it takes to develop an educational program that meets the needs of its particular students.

California's recent designation of East Palo Alto Academy as a “persistently low-achieving” school, based on the slow rate of achievement gain as the elementary grades were added, is inaccurate based on its own criteria, and Stanford has appealed that designation. Such schools are defined as those that have not gained at least 50 API points over the last five years. East Palo Alto Academy actually achieved a 76-point overall gain over this time period, and the high school alone had an even greater gain of 84 points. The state refused to consider all five years of data because it had changed the school identification code when the elementary grades were added. The school’s API is far from among the lowest 5 percent in the state, as the designation suggests. The bottom 5 percent of schools have API scores of 480 or below and East Palo Alto Academy’s API is over 600, considerably above that level.

The students, parents, and staff of East Palo Alto Academy High School have expressed support and 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. We look forward to continuing to work with the Ravenswood school district on the education of East Palo Alto students.

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