Demand continues to grow for Visalia's Sycamore Valley Academy

January 11, 2016

  • Print
The demand for Sycamore Valley Academy (SVA), a K-8 charter school in Visalia, continues to grow as the school added another class this school year, reducing the waitlist from 160 students to 140 students.

SVA became the first independent charter school authorized by Visalia Unified School District in 2011 and opened for the 2012-13 school year.

According to SVA Principal and Superintendent Ruth Dutton, the school's unique approach to teaching and its alternative, innovative program are what parents seek out for their children.

"There has been too much focus on what is taught at the expense of pedagogy," Dutton said. "We have to recognize as educators that we are developing habits of mind and how we teach is important."

SVA focuses on providing hands-on, project-based learning - a learning-by-doing approach, according to Dutton. Giving its teachers space to develop and share teaching methods is a critical component to the school's success, said Dutton.

In its fourth school year, SVA is changing its academic calendar to allow for more preparation time and collaboration for teachers.

Dutton has her sights set high for not only SVA, but points to having a positive impact in the community as a high priority.

"We want to have an impact at the local, state, and national level; but, more importantly, we want to have 'thought' impact," Dutton said. "It's about having a ripple effect in our community."

Defining what kind of ripple effect SVA will have in the community is at the core of a strategic planning process that is underway. Together with board members, teachers, and parents, SVA will develop a strategic plan that will guide the efforts of SVA in having a "thought impact" on student-centered learning.

"We want to impact the world outside our doors," Dutton said.