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Charter News

Charter Connections Academy (CCA) & Charter University Prep (CUPrep) Students Score well on 2016 State Tests

Students in grades 7, 8, and 11 are tested each spring in English Language Arts and Math. The tests are one measure in determining whether students are on track to be ready for college and careers. In English, CUPrep scores exceeded, by a large margin, both El Dorado County averages and State Averages. In 11th grade, 95% of the students scored "met or exceeded" college readiness, the vast majority scoring in the "exceeded" category. We were very pleased with our CCA scores as well. We found that the students who have been with us throughout high school overwhelmingly scored at the "met standards" of college readiness in English. Those that did not were primarily those students who had transferred to CCA in the past year. This is very encouraging for parents, students, and staff.

In Math, our scores are average. This is not exactly where we want to be, but it is a perfect opportunity to explain further how we are seeing math curriculum evolving. California public schools have made a significant shift in math instruction towards the new state standards, starting about five years ago. College math has not shifted towards high school level standards, so there is a gap between what college professors need students to know and what is being taught in high school under the new state standards.  We expect that colleges and universities will adapt curricular approaches somewhat to accommodate students coming out of high school programs and that over time, the disparities will be fewer. Even the SAT has undergone some changes to more reflect a problem solving approach to math.  The idea behind the shift in approaches in the new state (and national Common Core) standards is to focus students on how to solve problems as opposed to just being able to work through algorithms.

At CCA, five years ago, very few students took any math classes beyond geometry. This past two years, we have doubled each year the number of students taking Algebra 2, and we expect that trend to continue.  Those who took Algebra 2 last year did very well on the state tests, which makes sense since there are many questions at that level.  Every year, more of our students are taking advanced Math and Science classes which we believe will show as an improvement on state tests.  Mathematical reasoning is understood in the context of science, so the more we engage students in science concepts, the better their math understanding will be.

We will continue to modify our approaches to support our mission while also ensuring that students aren't missing out on things.  This year, we have adopted a more state standards based curriculum in Junior High and think that a shift in that direction will bear fruit on the state tests as well as continue to prepare students to be successful in the higher level courses.  We continue to meet with college math teachers to make sure our students are well prepared for their future courses.

At CUPrep, we have always had the mission of preparing students for success at the university level, so we have geared our math curriculum and approaches so that students would be successful in Statistics and Calculus math courses.  The vast majority of students at CUPrep take classes beyond Advanced Algebra 2 and do so very well. Our students are typically the top students in Calculus at Folsom Lake College, and we send a high percentage of students directly to Universities where they are very successful.  This hasn't always been reflected on state tests where much emphasis is placed on probability-type problems.  Students who move on to Pre- Calculus and higher courses pick up probability concepts easily.  We haven't placed much emphasis on probability in lower levels, and our scores on those state tests reflect this. ­­­­

We have always been deliberate on what we teach and how we teach it.  We avoid social and educational trends which change with the wind.  As I have traveled around the world, looking at methods of teaching Math, I have seen a clear difference in how other countries approach math and how we teach math in the United States.  By far, most countries teach Math by rote memory.  Students memorize and work thousands of problems in arithmetic and algebra.  You see their successes on international tests, which emphasize this rote memory type of approach, because the students have done many similar problems in classes and homework assignments.  Our culture has not supported this approach, and I see no trends in the future moving in that direction.  Instead, the United States approach focuses on a deeper understanding of the reasoning in math.  This takes time, effort, and patience.  We also have not done a great job in the past 30 or so years requiring students to master arithmetic processes.  I believe the ideal is for students to have a balanced approach where a student works so many problems that the procedures become automatic, and that with that foundation, he or she can explore the deeper uses of math without stumbling on the procedures.  Automaticity with arithmetic and algebra is essential for success in higher level math courses.

Thank you for a) reading through this long-winded article about test scores, and b) entrusting us to work with your students to help them prepare for their educational and occupational futures.

Mike Harris

Principal, CCA & CUPrep

Proud Adult Students Achieve their High School Diplomas

Twenty-four adult graduates received their diplomas at one of the most inspirational ceremonies in El Dorado County on Tuesday, May 31. The El Dorado County Office of Education (EDCOE) offers support and services to students of all ages, and the Adult Education Programs allow individuals to complete a variety of educational milestones that otherwise may have seemed out of reach. Principal Gary Sutherland oversees the Adult Education Programs and gave these words of encouragement, “We acknowledge you for a variety of reasons as you have conquered trials and tribulations to arrive at this point of success. I commend all of you and want to encourage you to give back and lend a hand to those around you. May today be the beginning of a new journey.”

Teacher Vicky Peoples also addressed the graduates and stated, “This program is so much different than high school. Some of you have jobs, major responsibilities, spouses, and children. If you are parents, you are also teachers – you are both students and educators.”

Heather Hawkins was joined by her proud family and gave a speech to her classmates, “Because of this program, I can do whatever I want to do and be whoever I want to be. I did this because I want to be a good role model for my children.”

Student Robert Diller might have been a self-proclaimed nervous wreck, but he delivered his speech like a pro. “I want to thank my family because this would not have happened without their support. Today is a beautiful day!”

Along with the adult diploma program, Adult Education Programs offer GED preparation and testing, adult basic education skills, English as a second language, career development, computer literacy, test preparation, concurrent high school classes, and more. Classes are offered year-round in various formats such as the traditional classroom setting and distance learning. Recently celebrating its 10-year anniversary, the program continues to expand and grow to meet the needs of the County. The program provides free-of-charge classes across the County to any person 18 years of age or older. For more information about the program, visit http://aded.edcoe.org/

Principal Gary Sutherland, the Adult Education Class of 2016, and teacher Vicky Peoples gather for a beautiful evening of celebration and thanks. Congratulations Graduates! 

Principal Gary Sutherland, the Adult Education Class of 2016, and teacher Vicky Peoples gather for a beautiful evening of celebration and thanks. Congratulations Graduates!

Student Heather Hawkins gives a passionate speech about how completing this program has opened a new world of opportunity and promise.

Student Heather Hawkins gives a passionate speech about how completing this program has opened a new world of opportunity and promise.

Charter Career Prep Students Learn About Life

 Charter Career Prep (CCP) students recently completed an innovative project that strengthened students’ science, research, and critical thinking skills by gathering and testing emu eggs for viability. The engaging, fun project is typical of the program, which emphasizes making learning relevant through hands-on projects and vocational opportunities.

 Students monitored the weekly progress by measuring the weight of four eggs until they hatched.  Of the four eggs, one emu successfully hatched, and subsequently attended class every day for two weeks.  Students continued to monitor its growth and weigh it weekly as it grew quickly, noting its first milestones: first standing, able to walk without falling, able to run, as it developed.  At CCP this type of project and thinking prepares students to successfully transition to career or college opportunities as part of the school's mission.

 “Growing the emu and watching the egg hatch was awesome,” Jordyn Todtenbier,  11th grade, described the experience.  "I learned we sometimes have to be very patient with anything in life.” 

 Charter Career Prep, which is located in the town of El Dorado, works to prepare students to be college and career ready through an engaging, rigorous curriculum. Our small school environment supports skills that will benefit students throughout their lives. For more information about Charter Career Prep, visit our website website at ccp.edcoe.org or by calling (530) 621-2579.

Charter CARE Programs Embrace TEACH

 Charter CARE Program students TEACH their way to a healthier lifestyle. The TEACH program is sponsored through a grant by the Center for Violence-Free Relationships in Placerville. Students learn to express themselves as they build healthy relationships and develop active bystander intervention skills. This innovative education strategy aligns with the Community Action for Responsive Education (CARE) Program’s core values, which focus on a rigorous academic program and maintaining a strong partnership between students, parents, and teachers.  

CARE provides a high-quality, alternative education program for at-risk students in grades 7-9 and builds upon student strengths as they prepare for high school, college, and beyond. The program is designed for students to be successful even though they may have difficulty meeting the behavioral and academic standards necessary to thrive in a traditional school setting. A lower student-teacher ratio helps ensure improved behavior and academic performance. 

TEACH students participate in a variety of activities including, art, drama, games, and group discussions that solve peer issues and concerns. Community guest speakers, written letters, and care packages sent to U.S. Navy members have been highly successful with the 7th and 8th grade students. Communication and partnership with parents, teachers, and the community are central elements of the CARE program.

“My students are much more thoughtful and kind," CARE Program teacher, Janet Dewolf states.  “I have noticed a marked positive change after using TEACH in her classroom for the last two years.”

Charter CARE Programs are available at two middle schools and one high school campus in El Dorado County. For more information about Charter’s CARE Program, visit our website at care.edcoe.org, or call (530) 295-2259.

Charter University Prep Teacher Receives Top Award

The California Arts Council has awarded Charter University Prep’s (CUPrep) Kate Wells the Teacher Hero Award of 2016, for her work with the Poetry Out Loud program. For 11 years, the Poetry Out Loud competition has encouraged the nation's youth to learn about poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. Students compete at the local level and can advance to state and national levels. The Hero Award was established to acknowledge the remarkable work done in the classroom by thousands of teachers, coaches, teaching artists, and others who bring this program to life. This year, more than 50,000 students in 35 California counties participated in the competition.

Mrs. Wells teaches five English classes across three different grades, where she has made Poetry Out Loud a required component of the curriculum in every class. This allows her students to benefit from the program and succeed in the competitions. CUPrep students often appear in the El Dorado County finals, and some have finished as high as 2nd place statewide.

The El Dorado Arts Council nominated Mrs. Wells because of her dedication to her students and the Poetry Out Loud program. In the nomination letter, Poetry Out Loud Coordinator Moira Magneson noted that, “Clearly Kate is a catalyst for and friend of poetry in El Dorado County, absolutely fulfilling Poetry Out Loud’s mission of reviving poetry as a national literary art. In uplifting language, poetry and young people, she has inspired a generation of individuals who will go out in the world fearless in their love of poetry and the arts!”

Mike Harris, CUPrep’s Principal, noted, “Kate is a hero precisely because she doesn't see her students as fitting into a normal sentence. Each one is a thought, a feeling, and an infinitely unique individual. Kate demonstrates courage to give of herself so that others might be more.”

Charter University Prep is located at the Charles Brown Educational Center in El Dorado. CUPrep focuses on addressing complex ideas and critical thinking, which are necessary for success at the University level. Poetry Out Loud supports the school’s goals of systematically strengthening students’ abilities to be rational, independently minded citizens who communicate effectively and contribute meaningfully to their communities. 

For information about Charter University Prep, visit their website at cuprep.edcoe.org.