Editorial: Results are encouraging at Hollister-bound charter

Engaged students answer questions from the teacher during class at Gilroy Prep.

While the Gilroy education community can celebrate the astonishing achievement of its second-year charter school, the news also lends itself to vast encouragement for Hollister.

That is because Gilroy Prep School – which will receive an Academic Placement Index score of between 960 and 970 in its first year taking the test, a record for new charters in California and the most in the district’s history – has plans to open a campus here in 2013-14.

Although charter school skeptics are correct in pointing out the hit-and-miss nature of the reform models – because fragmented experimentation inevitably results in some failures – these results point to an achievement level that should give the Hollister School District, its parents and its students great optimism moving ahead.

Hollister can use that encouragement and such a bright prospect, considering its historically low scores and continual challenges with a large proportion of English learners.

The local district has taken positive steps toward offering alternative models, such as the Accelerated Achievement Academy that scored 955 in the most recent API results. But there is plenty of room for improvement district wide when you consider the highest-scoring conventional school in the district was Cerra Vista at 833 and the lowest was Calaveras Elementary at 689 – with 800 considered the base and 1,000 as the highest possible score.

Among Gilroy Prep’s focuses remains the inclusion of English learners – a demographic with an API of just 707 in the Hollister district this last time around. The Gilroy charter, as other similar schools do, aggressively addresses the practices and factors that drag down the education system here and elsewhere.

Gilroy Prep features a longer school day, no teachers’ union or accompanying tenure designations, broader use of technology instead of traditional textbooks, a focus on proper behavior and teaching methods that encourage interaction.

And then there are the $2,500 bonuses for the Gilroy Prep teachers for surpassing the API goal – a form of merit pay, an example of accountability, that public teachers unions so dread.

Fearing change won’t accomplish anything. Hollister should welcome the Gilroy Prep educators. Any additional costs, if successful, would be offset by a much higher standard of learning and achievement, which can spur funding gains.

Other conventional schools would benefit, too, as they would have access to unconventional teaching methods that have produced success for our neighbors to the northwest.

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