Pass / Fail

So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Long Beach charter could close after 'fun' curriculum leads to lackluster test scores

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33185 full

The small New City School charter campus in Long Beach has made a big ruckus over the past year, as Long Beach Unified officials inch ever closer to shutting it down for poor performance and financial problems.

District officials have scheduled a hearing Monday afternoon to hear from the school’s parents, students and staff. The school board could vote to revoke the school’s charter as early as Tuesday.

The K-8 grade New City School opened its doors 12 years ago with a very untraditional curriculum, including learning math through logical reasoning. Students learn math through logical reasoning methods, says co-founder Stephanie Lee.

"They’re given a problem, a situation," co-founder Stephanie Lee explains. "[For example], go to the garden and the strawberry plant has eight strawberries on it and you eat three of them. How many strawberries are still on the plant? Something like that."

Critical thinking skills, she says, will help students navigate their way through life. Trouble is, the state exempts charters from many rules but not the requirement that students take standardized tests on traditional curricula.

New City School scored 623 on the Academic Performance Index that measures those scores, nearly 200 points below the state goal of 800.

Long Beach school board member Mary Stanton says she admires parents’ commitment to what she calls a "fun" curriculum.

"Unfortunately, my role as a board member is to uphold the law, and the law has certain criteria about academic standards and financial solvency," Stanton said.

The board, she said, should revoke the school’s charter. Other board members want to give New City School a year to improve after the school's staff secured refinancing of its mortgage loan. School board president John Meyer wants a pledge from the school’s leaders to improve test scores.

"If they could get their financial situation in order, I would agree to another school year for them to turn their achievement record around," Meyer said.

Parents of kids in the school engaged in civil disobedience last month when Meyer and the rest of the school board limited public comment during a hearing on the school’s future. Tova Pusl, whose kids are going into the fifth and second grades at the school, said she was removed from that meeting.

"There is a strong core of families that wants this school to survive," she said. "We have taken this on as a job and we have put all our energy into saving this school."

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