Summit Prep, a successful California charter school, gets 325 applications for every 100 ninth-grade slots. Students are chosen by lottery. To stay small, Summit’s organizers have applied for a charter permit for a second high school, Everest. The Sequoia Union school board rejected the idea saying Everest will be too rigorous to serve a wide range of students. The San Mateo County Board of Education will hear the charter petition on Monday.
Superintendent Pat Gemma explains in a local newspaper op-ed why there’s no need for a new charter school.
Everest proposes offering a solely college preparatory curriculum to prepare all its students for enrollment in a four-year college. The rigors of advanced placement-level coursework and required mastery of Mandarin would pose significant, if not insurmountable, challenges to many special ed and English language-learning students. In addition, Everest’s expectations of parents would represent considerable challenges to many lower socioeconomic families.
Yet “lower socioeconomic families” seem eager to be challenged by high expectations.
The ethnic mix of Summit Prep’s 400 students approximates that of the district, with 39 percent from a Hispanic heritage and 48 percent white, 45 percent from families receiving free or reduced-price lunches, and 18 percent from families in which the primary language is not English, the backers say.
Gemma goes on:
Everest is proposed as an alternative to a problem that doesn’t exist. The Sequoia district excels in preparing students for college, and in fact 96 percent of the district’s most recent graduates went on to college.
Unfortunately, one third of the district’s ninth graders don’t graduate. Another third earn a diploma but don’t meet the requirements for a state university. Sequoia has the largest gap between white and Hispanic test scores of any high school district in the state, one comment points out. Honors classes are heavily white and Asian. Hispanic students make up 40 percent of ninth graders but only 15 percent of college-eligible graduates.
By contrast, Summit puts all its students on the college track. Despite receiving $2,000 less per student, Summit outscores Sequoia’s other schools. Surely the hundreds of students turned away every year indicate there’s unmet demand for a rigorous college-prep education.