Classical Academy High School

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The challenge: Supporting parent involvement in testing

Classical Academy High School (CAHS) is an independent study charter school serving students in grades nine to 12. CAHS launched in 2006, and is affiliated with the charter network called The Classical Academies which began in 1999. Serving about 366 students, CAHS is comprised of 74% white students; 15% of students qualify for Free or Reduced Price Lunch and 0% are English Language Learners.

CAHS's independent study model guides students on a college preparatory path, while providing flexibility in instruction and classroom time. Students can select to be on campus from zero to four days per week. CAHS offers a curriculum that is aligned to the University of California A-G requirements, offering a wide range of college prep, honors, Advanced Placement, and electives, including classes at local colleges. CAHS integrates both accessibility and flexibility for their students, which helps students who might struggle in a traditional school setting. Every teacher is available to parents and students by cell phone and email, and parent communication is welcome at all times. Teachers often take extra time to work with students with a learning disability or provide additional tutoring after school.

The solution: Develop two-way communication

CAHS, like all schools within the Classical network, focuses on core standards in lesson planning and instruction, in order to prepare students for standardized tests. CAHS integrates state tests into their school culture, and by nurturing a culture where testing is welcomed, administrators report that students feel less pressured with testing and therefore perform better. Meaningful parental involvement plays a key role in supporting the importance of testing, as well as in shaping the curriculum and program. Administrators report that once parents realize the importance of state tests in showcasing their students' success, student buy-in is soon to follow. School leadership consistently seeks parent feedback, and often makes changes, from curriculum choices to programming, based on parent input. Changes resulting from parent input include increased "seat time" in the physical classroom, introduction of a sports program, and more Advanced Placement classes.

The results: High academic achievement

In 2010, CAHS had an Academic Performance Index (API) of 837, with a net drop of 7 points over three years.

On CCSA's Similar Students Measure, which assesses school performance while filtering out many of the non-school effects on student achievement through the use of regression-based predictive modeling, the school performed within their prediction over a period of three years. The SSM is one element of CCSA's performance framework, which also includes measures of rigor (in the form of a school's API score) and momentum (by considering growth in API over a three-year period). By combining the pattern of a three-year cycle using current API, cumulative growth, and predicted performance, the framework provides a more comprehensive performance management construct to assess school progress. This progress is divided into four quadrants: high status-high growth; high status-low growth; low status-high growth; and low status-low growth. CAHS occupies the "high status-low growth" quadrant.

In the 2011-12 school year, CAHS hopes to further improve their API by messaging to parents, their community of learners, and their entire team about the importance of testing and the accolades that follow positive testing results. When stakeholders care and feel connected to results, growth will take place.

This Success Story is taken from Portrait of the Movement, CCSA's report on charter school performance and accountability.

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