Independent Study Roundtable: Meeting Students Where They Are

December 13, 2013

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Independent Study (IS) is a model of education that allows students and teachers to customize learning and provides students with the opportunity to learn at their own pace and on their own time. IS charter schools use both synchronous and asynchronous instruction as well as seat-time in a classroom, to deliver instruction to students.

IS charter schools aim to "meet students where they are" and create a program that is tailored to their unique needs. Close to 25% of California charter school students are enrolled in IS programs. With CCSA's support, two charter school operators in the San Diego area want to be sure that state leaders understand the IS model and hear about the challenges IS charter public school face and the success they celebrate. So, on December 10, Cameron Curry, executive director of The Classical Academies and Mary Bixby, president and CEO of the Charter School of San Diego hosted six representatives from San Diego area legislative offices for a roundtable discussion.

Representatives were present from Senator Joel Anderson, Senator Marty Block, Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, Assemblymember Brian Jones, and Assemblymember Shirley Weber's offices.

Topics covered included nonclassroom-based funding determinations, facilities needs, adaptive learning models, futuristic learning environments and pathways to college, the military, trade-schools and the workforce.

CCSA's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Myrna Castrejon, opened the round table with a high level overview of charter schools and then turned it over to Mr. Curry and Ms. Bixby to dive into their joint-presentation. Following the presentation, questions sparked a lively group discussion.

One myth that was addressed is that IS schools are strictly "nonclassroom-based" and have no facilities needs. Mr. Curry explained that students are engaged in a classroom five days a week at the Classical Academies, and, because charter schools do not receive facilities funding and because nonclassroom-based charter schools are excluded from the Charter School Facilities Grant Program, they spend 22% of the operating budget on facilities.

Moreover, Ms. Bixby shared that between Altus and the Charter School of San Diego, there are over 44 centers in Southern California, which are located across five counties and 22 municipalities, and are housed in premier shopping malls and strip malls. Both Mr. Curry and Ms. Bixby noted how important it is for their local representatives to know how policy made in Sacramento will impact charter public school students in Sacramento.

Both acknowledged the support they have received from their local elected officials and offered to continue informing, engaging and working with them to make sure that every time they vote for legislation impacting charter schools, that they do so with a comprehensive understanding of how their vote will impact charter school students in San Diego and across the state.

CCSA is honored to have such boundless charter school leaders like Mr. Curry and Ms. Bixby representing the charter school movement in California, and confidently taking their message on Independent Study and the value of charter schools to the legislature. CCSA will continue to support leaders like Mr. Curry and Ms. Bixby in their endeavors to inform and engage legislators.

CCSA would like to thank Mr. Curry and Ms. Bixby for hosting this round table and especially thank the legislative offices that attended the event and made learning more about the charter schools in their region a priority.