Across the nation, the need for education system reform has taken many forms. Charter schools, an invention of the 1990s, allows local educators and parents to develop their own laboratories of innovation and schools of choice for the betterment of their children. John Muir Charter School (JMCS) shares in the universal goals for educational reform but differs in its methods of delivery. National and state leaders have recognized that one size does not fit all when it comes to learning environments and methods of teaching our young people, and California has traditionally led the nation in authorizing innovative charter schools. Charter school legislation has been approved in more than half the states to broaden public school choice for children and youth.
The Charter Schools Act of 1992 (Education Code Section 47600, etseq.) was enacted by the legislature to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, pupils, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently from the existing school district structure, as a method to:
Improve pupil learning.
Increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as academically low achieving.
Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods.
Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the school site.
Provide parents and pupils with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system.
Hold the schools established under this part accountable for meeting measurable pupil outcomes, and provide the schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems.
Provide vigorous competition within the public school system to stimulate continual improvements in all public schools.
The John Muir Charter School (hereinafter “JMCS”), first approved by the Nevada County Board of Education (hereinafter “NCBOE”) May 16, 2002; is a charter school operating as a nonprofit public benefit corporation that is separate and distinct from the NCBOE. JMCS provides educational programs designed to meet the educational needs of the youth of the California Conservation Corps (CCC), Local Conservation Corps (LCC), Job Corps, YouthBuild (YB), and Workforce Investment Act programs (WIA).
As the result of the granting of this charter, JMCS is generally freed from the State’s educational bureaucracy in agreement for a charter that outlines the specific goals and operating procedures for the charter school. As such, this charter is the constitution under which JMCS must operate. JMCS is accountable to NCBOE for producing the academic results outlined herein. As further outlined below, JMCS is required to participate in the statewide assessment tests and shall meet all statewide standards applicable to non-charter public schools. The law also requires that a public charter school be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations. Public charter schools may not charge tuition and may not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability.
This charter follows the required format of the Charter Schools Act (Section 47605). The Charter Schools Act requires a charter to comprehensively describe sixteen (16) required elements. The language of the Charter Schools Act precedes each element described below beginning on page 10.
In the last five years of its charter, JMCS has grown in size to slightly more than 2,000 students at 57 sites and satellites across the state of California. In addition to the CCC (20 sites), JMCS serves six LCC programs (9 sites and satellites), one National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) site (1), six YB programs (6 sites), and thirteen WIA programs (21 sites and satellites).
JMCS continues to serve an older student population. The median age of JMCS students is 20.7 years, and 92.5% of JMCS students are over age 18. On average, JMCS students drop out of four other high school programs before enrolling in JMCS. JMCS continues to have a very diverse student body. Approximately 66% of JMCS students are male and 33% female. 58% of JMCS students are of a Hispanic or Latino background, 24% African American, 14% white, and 3% Asian, Pacific Islander, African or Native American. 73% of JMCS students report that English is their primary and home language, 24% report Spanish as their home or primary language, and 3 % report an “other” language such as Hmong, Russian, Persian, Arabic, Aramaic, French or 11 other languages JMCS students speak at home.
Poverty continues to be a defining factor for JMCS students, and 87% of JMCS students qualify as living below state and federal poverty levels. The additional 20% of students are generally reported as “not qualified” for non-response to income questions upon enrollment. The parent education of JMCS students is also far below normal levels as seen in the tables below. The vast majority of JMCS students’ parents never finished high school, and only a very few attended or graduated from college.
Parent Education Levels for JMCS Students 2010-2013
Parent Education Levels for JMCS Students 2010 - 2011
35 – Graduate School/Post Graduate Training
607 – High School Graduate
237 – College Graduate
1353 – Not a High School Graduate
237 – Some College (including AA degree)
565 – Declined to State/Unknown
Parent Education Levels for JMCS Students 2011 - 2012
38 – Graduate School/Post Graduate Training
589 – High School Graduate
208 – College Graduate
1311 – Not a High School Graduate
243 – Some College (including AA degree)
560 – Declined to State/Unknown
Parent Education Levels for JMCS Students 2012 - 2013
59 – Graduate School/Post Graduate Training
925 – High School Graduate
340 – College Graduate
1703 – Not a High School Graduate
293 – Some College (including AA degree)
764 – Declined to State/Unknown
Despite the economic and academic challenges many JMCS students have faced, the last five years have shown us that JMCS students not only achieve significant academic gains, but achieve those gains at a far greater rate than other high school students in California.
California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE)
In their first attempts on the CAHSEE, 41% percent of JMCS students pass the English Language Arts (ELA) section. The average scale score is 342, which is 8 points below the 350 points needed to pass. In their first attempt on the math portion, 29% percent of students pass. The average math score is 338 or 12 points below the 350 points needed to pass. In comparison, when looking at the statewide average of scores for these same categories, 80% of California 10th graders pass the CAHSEE ELA on their first attempt with an average score of 383. 80% of California 10th graders also pass the CAHSEE math test on their first attempt with an average score of 384. Ultimately through multiple attempts at the CAHSEE, 50 % of JMCS students will pass the CAHSEE ELA section and 45% will pass the CAHSEE Math section.
Though many JMCS students will not pass the CAHSEE, almost all will show significant gains in CAHSEE scores while enrolled in JMCS. In addition to showing those gains, JMCS students also show substantially greater gains than other students in California. When compared to California 10th graders who did not pass the CAHSEE on their first attempt, JMCS students achieve growth in CAHSEE scores between 1.5 and 2 times higher than California students when measured over similar time frames (262-264 calendar days between tests).
Even more significant than CAHSEE growth to JMCS and its partnering agencies is measuring growth in grade level equivalencies (GLEs) in mathematics and language arts. JMCS tests all students upon enrollment and again quarterly using the RenStar or TABE, both computer based tests of basic academic skills. 56-60% of JMCS students enroll with a mathematics grade level equivalency below 7. 84% enroll below high school level (9-12). 57% of JMCS students enroll with a grade level equivalency below 7, and 73 % below high school level (9-12). JMCS students do improve in both math and English while enrolled with JMCS. Between 2010-2013, JMCS students averaged an increase of 1 GLEs in English language arts over an average of 252 calendar days (8.4 months) and 1.2 GLEs in mathematics over an average of 238 days (7.9 months).
Since JMCS began keeping records in 1999, more than 6,000 students have received their high school diploma. In this case the comparative data is zero. Before JMCS, these students were drop-outs, not served by any school.
In addition to the student gains in the last five years, JMCS has also completely restructured its administrative format and structure. In June 2011, after eight years of excellent and innovative service, Buzz Breedlove retired from his role as JMCS’s Executive Director. During his tenure, Buzz grew JMCS from a struggling alternative program to a strong, data driven school providing unique educational partnerships and opportunities to underserved or un-served students in California. Following Buzz’s retirement in 2011, R.J. Guess was appointed Executive Director and continued Buzz’s example in setting data driven goals for student and school performance, focusing on value added individual student growth as well as measurable school-wide benchmarks for student success.
Since July 2011 JMCS has undertaken a significant restructuring.
JMCS restructured its curriculum, developing specific content area benchmarks and course outlines linked to the California state content standards, the common core standards, and JMCS’s ESLRs/Exit Outcomes.
JMCS added administrative staff to support specialization in program design: Katherine DeVinna was appointed JMCS’s Deputy Director and a specialist in LCC education programs, Mike Wegner was appointed Southern Regional Director and is a specialist in YB programs, Yvette Thomas was appointed JMCS’s Southern Regional Coordinator and is a WIA educational program specialist, Tom Hunnicutt was appointed Northern Regional Director and is a specialist in CCC educational programs.
JMCS added staff to its Registrars and Administrative Coordinator’s offices.
The JMCS Board approved a mental health counseling program to begin in the 2014-2015 school year.
JMCS received Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation in 2008 and continues to be WASC accredited.
As required by California Ed Code 47607(B)(5), JMCS maintains knowledge and understanding of current charter laws and has met all current requirements.
JMCS has also remained fiscally secure and financially well-managed. In the last five years JMCS has maintained healthy budgets, growing annually, and maintaining healthy cash reserves between 22% and 26% of revenues. Since JMCS received its charter from NCBOE in 2002, it has never had an audit exception.
Affirmations and Charter Elements Affirmations JMCS is committed to the following affirmations:
JMCS will participate in all required statewide assessment tests.
JMCS will meet all statewide standards applicable to non-charter public schools.
JMCS will be nonsectarian in its programs, employment practices, and all other operations.
JMCS will not charge tuition or mandate any student fees.
JMCS will not discriminate against any pupil on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, gender, or disability.
JMCS will admit all pupils who wish to attend the charter school subject only to capacity and independent study laws and regulations.
The meetings of the Board of Directors for JMCS shall be held in accordance with the Brown Act.
JMCS will comply with the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (“IDEA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“Section 504"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
JMCS will comply with the Public Records Act and the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”).
Admission to JMCS will not be determined according to the place of residence of the pupil, or of his or her parent or guardian, within California.
JMCS will continually strive for a healthy, collaborative, synergistic relationship with the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools (NCSOS), the CCC , the LCCs, and its YB, Job Corps, and WIA clients.
JMCS will offer, at a minimum the same number of minutes of instruction (64,800 minutes in a minimum of 175 school days) set forth in paragraph (3) of subdivision (a) of Education Code Section 46201 for the appropriate grade levels.
JMCS will maintain written contemporaneous records that document all pupil attendance and make those records available for audit and inspection.
JMCS will comply with the Public Records Act and the Family Rights in Education Privacy Rights Act.
JMCS will comply with all laws establishing minimum age for public school attendance and for pupils over 19 years of age.
JMCS will comply with all provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) between JMCS and the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools. It will also comply with all provisions of the MOUs between JMCS and the CCC, LCCs, Job Corp, YB, and WIA clients.
JMCS will develop a conflicts code in accordance with the conflicts code of the NCBOE.