A significant element of NOVA’s philosophy is that all students will graduate a-g compliant. That way, they have the largest number of post-secondary choices available to them. To this end, they have received UC approval for all core classes and some of the available electives. Additional electives will be submitted for approval this spring, and any electives added in the future will also be submitted for approval. Between 2007 and 2009, all graduating seniors fulfilled the a-g requirements in the UC/CSU system.
Students have also taken the PSAT and SAT tests. The PSAT has been made readily available through the school and 29 of the 40 graduates from 2007 through 2009 took that test, scoring in the mid to high 30’s. Only 7 of those students continued on to take the SAT and those scores ranged from the 390’s to the 430’s. In the 2009-2010 school year, all juniors took the PSAT and all seniors took at least some part of the SAT. Fee waivers were available for those who qualified, and the school paid for other students who would not have been able to afford the fees.
The graduation rate for enrolled seniors from 2007-2009 is 88%, although the 4-year graduation rate for the same period is only 16%. Again, the small size of the school and the transiency of the student population can skew statistics. The largest classes at NOVA have traditionally been the 9th and 10th grades. By the senior year, students may wish to return to the regular school program to participate in other programs or to graduate with their friends. That affects the 4-year graduation rate.
Graduation Rate 2007-2009
# 9th Grade Enrolled
Total # enrolled in 12th Grade
# Graduates who entered in 9th Grade
Post Enrollment 2007-2009
# of Seniors
% of all enrolled
Total Enrolled Seniors 2007-2009
Total Graduated Seniors 2007-2009
Enrolled in Post Secondary Education
attending 4 year college
transferred to 2 year college
attending 2 year college/certificate program
transferred to 4 year college
Enrolled in Adult School
Of the 40 seniors at the school from 2007 to 2009, thirty-one, or 80% have attended college or a certificate program, and twelve have gone on to a 4-year college program.
Chapter 2: Progress from the previous WASC report
North Valley had an initial WASC visit for candidacy in December of 2006. At that time, candidacy was granted and the Visiting Team left six critical areas for follow-up:
The recent work of Educational growth identified the following barriers to student achievement:
Lack of consistency in the implementation of the English Language Arts and math programs
Personnel and professional development and quality of staff
Parent and community involvement
Facilities, curriculum, instructional material and support services
A substantial number of students enroll at North Valley Charter School Having been unsuccessful at other schools
The school must improve their financial solvency and long-term financial planning.
Since that time, enrollment at the school has increased and the facilities have expanded to accommodate that growth. Additional staff has been added and programs have been expanded to accommodate the interests and needs of the students at NOVA.
1. The English Language Arts and Math departments have aligned their courses with the state standards and are using standards-aligned, research-based materials. All staff have met and worked on analyzing and aligning instruction with the level of academic rigor of the California Content Standards, and ELA and math teachers have been given more time to collaborate on school-wide articulation. Both departments have adopted local assessments to follow academic progress through the writing rubric and participation in the Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Program (MDTP). Because of state budget cuts and the more restricted availability of classes at the community college level, on-campus community college courses have been replaced with a greater variety of classes through the APEX program.
2. Professional development has been provided in classroom management, academic rigor, instructional strategies for Special Education students and instructional strategies for EL students. A consultant from Educational Growth has provided individual instructional coaching. Teachers have been involved in peer observation and follow-up reflection and discussion. The school conducts an annual four-day school-wide self-assessment at the end of each year. In 2008-2009, a year-long professional development program in research-based, best practices was presented and additional opportunities were available for collaboration.
3. As the school has grown, opportunities for parent involvement have increased. In addition to activities like Open House and academic planning meetings, the Project Fair has brought parents to the campus to see student work. Parent conferences led by students, community discussions and events, and opportunities to chaperone student events have also brought parents to the school. In addition, a new school website, online and hard copy newsletters in both English and Spanish and online access to student grades and attendance information have provided parents with more ties to the school. An automatic calling system provides information to parents in a timely fashion and personal invitations to parents keep them involved and in the know.
4. Additional classrooms and athletic facilities have been added to provide additional opportunities for students. Decks have been constructed to replace rental decking. A security gate has been added along with additional lighting for evening events and a fire hydrant to improve water access. Trees have been added in the parking lot and the Patriot Oil Trust has helped the school add umbrellas to the lunch area.
In the area of curriculum, courses have been aligned with state content standards and standards-aligned materials and textbooks have been purchased for use. A 6 week summer program has continued and a Freshman Summer Institute has been added for entering 9th graders to strengthen skills and preparation for high school work. New Spanish curriculum and materials are available for both native and non-native speakers. New laptop computers and two laptop carts, as well as a Smart Board and Quizdom clickers have strengthened technology offerings.
Increased staffing in Special Education and EL has been added, as well as an Operations Manager to oversee facilities and act as liaison with the director of Operations, Board of Trustees and the Office Manager. Additional supervision on the grounds both during the day and after school for Power Hour tutoring have been made available, and students now have access to a lunchtime Homework Club.
5. The restructuring of the Advisory period has provided connections with staff and faculty to help students establish stronger, more positive ties with the school. Regular homework time and tutoring give students more opportunities to succeed, and the reflective discipline policy encourages students to take responsibility for their actions and choices. Progress reports and online access to assignments through teacher web pages and the Power School program keep students and parents informed. The Freshman Summer Institute and the Career Choices programs provide freshmen with support as they enter high school and opportunities to begin to explore post secondary possibilities.
6. NOVA has paid off the debt incurred with the change from Imagine Academy and created a 5% reserve, as required by law. Enrollment is at capacity, improving funding from ADA. NOVA received a State Charter School Incentive Grant which will assist with facilities expenditures, including the projected library building, over a three-year span. Access Books has also promised $100,000 for use for school and classroom libraries. The school received a High Priority Schools grant which helped fund restructuring and improvements to the academic program as the school transitioned from Imagine Academy to North Valley Charter Academy. This grant helped fund changes that facilitated the 98-point API gain, however, the grant has since been discontinued. The school has qualified to receive Title I funding and has met the guidelines to be eligible for SB740 facilities reimbursement funds.
Chapter 3 – Self Study Process
When the school was restructured as North Valley Academy, the staff chose to keep the ideals of academic excellence, democratic leadership and personal growth from Imagine Academy. From those ideals, they wrote their ESLR’s which are:
NOVA Graduates will be:
Effective Communicators able to read, write, speak, and listen in a variety of contexts
Informed Thinkers able to locate, access, organize, evaluate, and apply information in a complex and technological world
Productive Problem-Solvers able to apply acquired analytical skills to find solutions to practical and hypothetical problems
Active and Capable Citizens able to demonstrate emotional intelligence and collaborate effectively as members of the diverse global community
Lifelong Learners able to establish and achieve educational and career goals, accept responsibility for making choices, and value learning as a lifelong process
The staff of NOVA is committed to student success and, though the staff is small, they are using their resources and abilities to provide as broad a program as possible for their students. The ESLR’s reflect aspects of the overall program at NOVA, such as the tie between accepting responsibility for making choices in the last ESLR and the reflective discipline program which emphasizes understanding that responsibility over punishment for a student’s actions. The ESLR’s are a regular part of classroom discussion, often providing the bridge between the information, skills, and standards being addressed and how that fits into the “real world”, and they have been incorporated into the Action Plan as well.
NOVA has had input from all groups of stakeholders during the Focus on Learning process. Parents, students and staff have all responded to questionnaires. Data has been analyzed and interpreted by teachers, and adjustments to the teaching and learning program have been made on the basis of that analysis even as the report was being written.
The staff at NOVA has continued to make the ESLR’s a central point of the classroom process, as well as working to align courses with standards. Students are asked to explain the standards being addressed in a given lesson and how the skills and information in the lesson meet the standard.
The school’s participation in a pilot program using DataDirector, a data collection and analysis program, has made data more easily available and that program has been able to tailor the data to the express concerns of the staff. The staff is becoming comfortable with the use of data to assess progress and achievement.
Because NOVA is still a fairly new entity and because student demographics continue to change as the school becomes more well-known, the self-study is a snapshot of a still-evolving institution. The staff has been assessing and analyzing the work that they and their students do as they have expanded in the past three years. They have practices in place that will allow and encourage them to continue that review as they continue to evolve.
The implementation plan contained in the school’s 2008 charter renewal has been, in large part, addressed. The Action Plan in the school’s FOL report continues efforts to improve student achievement and enhance teaching strategies. The school is clearly committed to improvement, both for students and teachers. The staff meets regularly and has established a mechanism for evaluating progress and effecting change. The principal works with both teacher leaders and the full staff to monitor their progress now and it is evident that that process will continue.
Chapter 4 Quality of the School’s Program
Part A: What currently exists
CATEGORY A: ORGANIZATION: VISION AND PURPOSE, GOVERNANCE, LEADERSHIP AND STAFF, RESOURCES
A 1. To what extent dies the school have a clearly stated vision and purpose based on student needs, current educational research and the belief that all students can achieve high levels?
To what extent is the school’s purpose supported by the governing board and central administration and further defined by expected school-wide learning results and the academic standards?
The basis for NOVA’s existence is the belief that all students can develop the practical and academic skills necessary to graduate as a career-focused, college ready young adult who is prepared to be a contributing citizen of a global society. The staff of NOVA maintains that these goals are best achieved in a psychologically safe environment which facilitates growth through self-reflection, and behavioral and emotional awareness.
NOVA provides a standards-based curriculum for all students. Each student’s academic strengths and needs are individually evaluated and supported. The teaching staff emphasizes that each student should be and is accepted as a unique individual who needs to have his/her needs met where they are. The goal of the staff is to build academic proficiency and the self-confidence necessary to pursue and succeed in post secondary education and the workplace. It is understood by NOVA that college may not be the goal of every student, but each student needs a goal that is based upon current real life information and understanding of individual needs. Members of the staff see the long term goal of the school in two ways. Some feel it will evolve into a “college prep” school while others see the clear need for students to have additional opportunity to explore trades and other non academic paths. Whichever goal the staff members see ,they all agree and work toward a school that allows diversity within the concepts of their core beliefs and ESLR’S.
The staff emphasizes that a successful student is well rounded and has the opportunity to be exposed to academics, the arts and technology while learning responsibility and the value of diversity.
During meetings the staff stated that curricular goals as well as long and short term goals for students and the school were made with staff input after discussion. It was explained that a process of suggestion, discussion, training, trials and then implementation is used. The staff is dedicated to NOVA , their students and each other. They share a common vision that NOVA will continue to be a safe haven for students to learn, grow and thrive emotionally.
A2. To what extent does the governing board have policies and bylaws that are aligned with the school’s purpose and support the achievement of the expected school-wide learning results and academic standards, based on data=driven instructional decisions for the school?
To what extent does the governing body delegate implementation of these policies to the professional staff?
To what extent does the governing board regularly monitor results and approve the single school-wide action plan and its relationship to the local Educational association (LEA) plan?
Policy development and decision making are done collaboratively by the board, administration, staff and students. There are steps in place that allow students to make suggestions and become a part of the decision-making process. Students reported that they have circulated petitions as a means to address specific issues or grievances. Stakeholders are in agreement that there needs to be more involvement by parents and the school board in the creation and implementation of policy at NOVA. Parents are offered an active role in areas of field trips, school wide activities planning and tutoring/helping during Power Hour. While only a few parents have actively participated, the parents stated they feel their concerns are heard and that they are a vital part of the campus and that they have a voice in the operation of the school. Parents further felt that the teachers and staff are willing to help with any problems their child may be experiencing.
The Board of Trustees currently delegates day-to-day operations to the administration at NOVA. The Board receives regular updates concerning mandated tests as well as academic progress for the entire student body. The board reviews the budget before its implementation, and during the year, it monitors expenses. The board is also a part of the discipline system if student behavior reaches a prescribed level. The Board, while vitally interested in the overall success of the school, does not appear to closely monitor the curriculum, hiring, or everyday direction of the school. There are currently only four active board members although the bylaws call for five to eleven. Board members are not all versed in school management, but appear to have a genuine interest in the success of NOVA and its students.
The Board was originally designed as a founding Board, but has now switched roles to become a sustaining body. The school staff states that” board members possess a wealth of business and educational experience and enthusiastically support the mission of the school.” However, they feel the lack of experience as a board requires the need for further training in order to partner more effectively with the school in “defining and implementing long-term strategic plans for the school.” The board needs to continue to seek members with experience in financial planning and development experience and to fill seats with non-voting faculty and student members.
A3. To what extent, based on student achievement data, does the school leadership and staff make decisions and initiate activities that focus on all students achieving the expected school-wide learning results and academic standards?
To what extent does the school leadership and staff annually monitor and refine the single school-wide action plan based on analysis of data to ensure alignment with student needs?
The staff of NOVA has chosen a daily advisory period as the vehicle to allow teachers time to review with students their daily work as well as their progress towards the school-wide and personal goals. A rubric exists as a means to evaluate individual progress, but the process is currently being revised. The Advisory period is in a state of change, with the expectation that each student will remain with the same teacher for the four years of high school to facilitate closer understanding between student and staff as to goals, expectations and personal needs.
Advisory period is also where the program School Connect is presented. This program addresses a number of issues. Through the various activities students are given the opportunity to create life goals that include detailed plans and benchmarks. The life goals concept is further developed in the Career Choices class where the student creates a ten year plan for themselves.
NOVA uses a variety of assessments to monitor their students’ progress. Teachers are encouraged to give daily assessments as well as four annual benchmark tests. The staff and administration regularly review CST scores as they create the benchmark goals and other classroom assessments.
A4. To what extent does a qualified staff facilitate achievement of the academic standards and the expected school-wide learning results through a system of preparation, induction, and ongoing professional development?
NOVA administration reports that 100% of the staff is fully qualified to teach. This number includes four teachers working under internship credentials as well as two teachers teaching outside their subject area of competence. Approximately 50 % (6 of 13) teachers are either CLAD or BCLAD certified. With NOVA self reporting that 50% of their student body’s primary language is Spanish, it would appear that there needs to be more teachers certified to teach limited English-speaking students. Several staff members are currently working toward CLAD certification and NOVA reports that all should complete the process within a short time.
NOVA provides a number of staff development opportunities on site, including monthly day-long student-free meetings, weekly staff meetings, and class coverage to allow peer observations. NOVA encourages teachers to attend off campus seminars and professional development by allowing each staff member two days during the school year for this purpose. A recent non-student day was designated for each staff member to visit another Charter School and observe their academic day. The staff reports that this was highly successful in looking at problems from another perspective and in discussing methods to deliver the curriculum. Topics for Staff Development are generally determined by the administration after input from the staff.
The staff often collaborates in curriculum decisions and creates cross-curricular projects and assignments.
NOVA provides instructional assistants, tutors and grounds supervision to allow the teachers maximum time to prepare and instruct.
A5. To what extent are leadership and staff involved in ongoing research or data-based correlated professional development that focuses on identified student learning needs?
The staff and administration both analyze student academic scores regularly to ensure that instruction is effective in meeting state standards and the ESLR’s. On-site professional development is provided, based on teacher requests and needs. Data is analyzed not only school wide, but across demographics, grade level and other student categories. The school is currently using the Data Director program on a trial basis. The program allows the analysis of data in a more efficient manner.
Teachers are provided a daily planning period in which to prepare lessons and analyze student success or needs. Teachers collaborate formally in weekly and monthly staff meetings and informally during preparation periods, breaks and after school. At risk students are brought to the attention of the entire staff as interventions are discussed. An educational consultant is available to observe and help implement classroom improvements.
A6. To what extent are the human, material, physical and financial resources sufficient and utilized effectively and appropriately in accordance with the legal intent of the program(s) to support students in accomplishing the academic standards and the expected school-wide learning results?
The entire staff at NOVA appears to collaborate concerning the allocation of funds and the creation of programs. The board has input through the budget approval process, but the actual decision making is done on site by the administration and teaching staff. The allocation of funds is done with student learning and success as the primary concern
The campus is small and compact, but appears to have adequate space and facilities to allow a positive learning environment. The grounds are well maintained and attractive, with student -generated murals a permanent part of the buildings’ outside appearance. There is currently no gym, but adequate open space as well as a basketball court and track provide an area for Physical Education activities. There is also space available to allow student to dress for PE. A yard monitor is present during the day to supervise passing periods and lunches. A library is in the permitting stage and books have been purchased and donated. The library is a much anticipated addition to the campus. Textbook and supplemental materials adoption is done by the teachers with administrative input. The school is making a genuine effort to obtain more technology for teacher and student use. Additional funds for technology is being pursued through the grant writing process.
A7.To what extent had the charter school’s governing authority and the school leadership executed responsible resource planning for the future> Is the charter school fiscally solvent and does it use sound and ethical accounting practices (budgeting, monitoring, internal controls, audits, fiscal health and reporting?)
Through careful fiscal management, NOVA was able to repay its debt within two years of its opening in the fall of 2006 and convert a substantial deficit to a 5% reserve. The NOVA Operations Manager monitors and oversees the budget to maintain a healthy surplus to cover any unforeseen events.
The Board of Trustees meets regularly to plan for NOVA’s continued financial health. NOVA received a State Charter School Incentive Grant which will assist with facilities expenditures, including the projected library building, over a three-year span. Access Books has also promised $100,000 for use for school and classroom libraries. The school received a High Priority Schools Grant which helped fund restructuring and improvements to the academic program as the school transitioned form Imagine Academy to North Valley Charter Academy. This grant helped fund changes that facilitated the 98-point API gain, however the grant has since been discontinued. The school has qualified to receive Title I funding and has met the guidelines to be eligible for SB740 facilities reimbursement funds. In spite of budget uncertainties and the current unreliability of state payments, NOVA has maintained a solid financial outlook.
A8. Has the charter school developed [policies, procedures and internal controls for managing the financial operations that meet state laws, generally accepted practices, and ethical standards?
With oversight from the Board of Trustees, the NOVA Operations Manager and Administrative team manage the school’s fiscal programs to ensure that the school complies with all local policies, state and federal laws. Fiscal policies and procedures are handled through the Operations Manager, whose role will be expanded through Chief Business Officer’s training. As evidenced by annual independent audits, NOVA uses generally accepted accounting practices and operates in an ethical manner in all business dealings.
Areas of Srength
Student needs centered decisions
Collaboration between staff members
Professional Development opportunities
School is fiscally sound
Increase training and involvement of the Board
Continue to investigate additional sources of income
Increase means for student involvement in decisions
Increase parent and community involvement
Evidence: Self Study, Focus Group meetings, interviews with Board, NOVA charter, interview with Operations Manager
CATEGORY B. STANDARDS-BASED STUDENT LEARNING: CURRICULUM
B1. To what extent do all students participate in a rigorous, relevant, and coherent standards-based curriculum that supports the achievement of the academic standards and the expected school-wide learning results?
To what extent are the expected school-wide learning results accomplished through standards-based learning (i.e. what is taught and how it is taught)?
NOVA works within the California Framework to address content standards, and reports that their teaching is both standards-based and applicable to their ESLR’s. This is supported by the observation of standards and objectives being clearly posted in the majority of classrooms, and the fact that the teachers are cognizant of the expected student outcomes—making a genuine effort to highlight those connections to students during the team’s visit.
Professional development at the school has focused on classroom management strategies, differentiating instruction and scaffolding material. Given that many of NOVA’s students enroll with credit deficiencies, the school has been creative in offering multiple avenues for students to redeem credits— including college-level courses offered through Mission College, and the APEX online learning program. Moreover, NOVA has strived to create flexibility within their program and has begun giving diagnostic tests in English and Math for incoming students to help place them in the most appropriate classes. The Algebra 1 curriculum has been divided into a two year course giving the school more flexibility in their math program and students more confidence when they enter Algebra 2.
NOVA reports that its staff has meticulously reviewed their curriculum to ensure rigor, alignment to state standards and relevance to student needs. Their core curriculum courses have received approval from the UC system, and they have submitted two elective classes for UC approval. In addition, NOVA has begun to offer the Career Choices class within their curriculum in order to better serve their predominantly “at-risk” student population by connecting school work to both real-world themes and to their students’ post-secondary aspirations.
B2. To what extent do all students have access to the school’s entire program and assistance with a personal learning plan to prepare them for the pursuit of their academic, personal, and school-to-career goals?
NOVA is a small school—enabling them to more readily individualize an academic and post-secondary plan for each individual student. Likewise, through creative interventions such as PowerHour, Advisory period and Homework Club, NOVA is able to connect with their students at the earliest signs of struggle. Additionally, the Career Choices class helps students in 9th grade to prepare for and meet their school-to-career goals by making both 5 and 10 year plans for success—the program is also being taught in 11th grade this year and next year so that all current NOVA students will have participated by the time of their graduation. The staff also collaborates to place students in appropriate class groupings based on diagnostic exams and the DataDirector program. Both parents and students can access their grades and assignments via the internet by going on the school’s website and clicking on the link to the Power School program. However, the school’s small size does not afford students many options in terms of electives offered on site nor has it substantially increased parent participation in the school beyond that which might occur at a larger school.
NOVA encourages all students to be college ready and provides counseling in order to help students meet that goal. Their research reflects that 89% of all NOVA graduates are enrolled in some type of post-secondary education. All of the school’s 11th grade students take the PSAT. If students cannot afford an exam, the school will pay for it. All 12th grades students take at least some portion of the SAT, for which the school also provides funding assistance. All teachers create and modify Course Scope and Sequence plans at the beginning and end of each semester to evaluate student achievement. The school also identified a need for creating both Grade-level and Course benchmarks in order to determine students’ proficiency/mastery of the school curriculum, and the staff has developed those for use this year and plans to continue to refine benchmarks for all new and continuing courses going forward.
B3. To what extent are students able to meet all the requirements of graduation upon completion of the high school program?
NOVA pays close attention to their students’ progress towards graduation. Students who are lacking credits can access the APEX Learning online program through licenses purchased by the school. Otherwise, they can be offered summer school or they can attend Mission College and make up credits through concurrent enrollment at the college. Two former students used these avenues to graduate high school in just 3 years. Advisory teachers work closely with all students to ensure that students make adequate progress towards graduation. For the 2009/2010 school year, the school has created Individual Credit Recovery plans, enabling students who fail any classes to do additional work in order to attain mastery and make up those credit deficiencies before the end of the school year. The school does its best to promote career and college awareness through assemblies, informational evenings, college fairs and field trips. Over the past three years, the school has maintained an 88% graduation rate. Students who fail to pass one or both sections of the CAHSEE are provided remediation either through PowerHour, Summer school, or with extra help from their English or Math Teachers.
Areas of Strength
8% increase in 10th grade ELA CAHSEE scores from 2008 to 2009 and an 18% increase in 10th grade CAHSEE math scores from 2008 to 2009 (NOVA students are passing the ELA portion of the CAHSEE at a rate that is 6% better than the district, and have the same passing rate as the district for math).
Support is available to students through a variety of programs such as Advisory, Power Hour, and Homework Club.
NOVA students can access local Adult School/Community College programs to retrieve credits, to gain enrichment elective credits, or to attain early graduation, and all students are counseled and encouraged to be college ready.
Both Leadership and staff seem intently involved with individual student needs—as evidenced by the collection of “student intervention logs” from teachers, and by devoting a good deal of time to professional development with the administration and staff.
Strengthen the correlation between the CST Math/Science scores to students passing NOVA’s curriculum in these subjects.
Formalize preparation for the CAHSEE, and pursue both standard and non-standard opportunities to expand elective options to include AP courses; career, technical, and vocational options, and SAT preparation.
C1. To what extent are all students involved in challenging learning experienced to achieve the academic standards and the expected school-wide leaning results?
NOVA’s first priority is to ensure that all students are engaged in the most effective and efficient learning activities that will lead them to mastery of the academic standards. This is accomplished by providing a non-threatening, low stress, friendly and respectful educational experience and an atmosphere that promotes academic achievement. NOVA’s teachers are highly committed to the success of the school and the achievements and well-being of all students. Students are encouraged to put in extra time to work towards a goal and final result, especially with programs such as Homework Club and PowerHour. English Language Arts students are involved in a rigorous reading, writing, speaking and listening curriculum. Math students are involved in a rigorous curriculum that is focused on strengthening basic skills to address foundational knowledge and application to real life situations. Science instruction is supported with laboratory experiences to contextualize conceptual learning in the real world. NOVA holds an annual project fair where students display curriculum-based projects that are often cross curricular and reflect ESLR’s, particularly encouraging students to become life-long, independent learners.
Benchmarks have been created and are regularly reviewed to ensure that all students have been instructed with respect to varying levels of understanding and standards-based curriculum. Benchmark exams are based on Bloom’s Taxonomy and linked to content standards.
NOVA’s core curriculum courses have received course approval from the UC system. Courses have been aligned with state content standards, and standards-aligned materials and textbooks have been purchased for use. A 6-week summer program has continued and a Freshman Summer Institute has been added for entering 9th graders to strengthen skills and preparation for high school work. New Spanish curriculum and materials are available for both native and non-native speakers.
All students are encouraged to be college-ready and are counseled on completing requirements and other opportunities to earn additional credits. Students who have the desire to be additionally challenged can take courses at the nearby community colleges or by doing coursework on APEX.
Introduction to and integration of technological applications lags behind currently available technology.
C2. To what extent do all teachers use a variety of strategies and resources, including technology and experiences beyond the textbook and the classroom, that actively engage student, emphasize higher order thinking skills, and help them succeed at high levels?
Professional development is provided throughout the year by school administrators and staff, Educational Growth consultants, and other education professionals. Two weeks of professional development are conducted immediately prior to the beginning of the academic year in order to introduce any new school policies and procedures and to begin work on the professional development themes for the year. Professional development is provided for all faculty and staff in eight full-day workshops through the year. Mini-workshops held during regular faculty meetings and weekly grade level teacher collaboration meetings provide additional opportunities to pinpoint specific areas and to plan trans-disciplinary curriculum design, discuss specific student concerns, and share successful practices. Classroom observation and instructional coaching are provided on an individual basis to teachers. Teachers and staff are encouraged to pursue other professional development opportunities such as conferences and independently sponsored workshops, and are granted time and funding when possible.
Classroom observations provide evidence that a variety of instructional strategies are used to engage students across the curriculum. Use of technology includes a movable cart of laptops, a smart board, and Quizdom clickers (fast response remotes). Students use laptop computers to gather information, to produce papers, to explore labs, and for data processing, and even to research colleges.
NOVA implemented a year-long (2008-2009) professional development project focused on analysis of standards. The English Language Arts and Math departments have aligned their courses with the state standards and are using standards-aligned, research-based materials. All staff have met and worked on analyzing and aligning instruction with the level of academic rigor of the California Content Standards, and ELA and Math departments have adopted assessments to follow academic progress through the writing rubric and participation in the Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Program (MDTP) sponsored by the University of California. Within the last two years, NOVA has replaced on-campus community college courses with access to a greater variety of courses through APEX’s on-line catalog, initiated supervised lunchtime Homework Club for students to complete missing daily assignments, expanded PowerHour to four days per week year-long, and revised grading policies to emphasize mastery of standards.
NOVA’s commitment to professional development has produced significant results, particularly in the area of classroom management. Nevertheless, the relatively inexperienced staff would benefit considerably from continued formalized and individual follow-up on professional development topics and from more individualized instructional coaching and modeling.
Areas of Strength
NOVA teachers are highly dedicated to the success of the school and the achievement and well-being of the students.
Teachers use a variety of instructional strategies to engage students at all levels of learning.
Students have access to academic programs and activities that facilitate effective communication and productive problem-solving, as outlined in the school’s ESLR’s.
Students know beforehand the standards and expected performance levels for each area of study, as well as the ESLR addressed in that area of study.
Staff development has been provided in the areas of classroom management and curriculum planning and is provided on a continuing basis for cross-curricular planning and student achievement.
NOVA students are offered a rigorous curriculum that prepares them for the post-secondary world. However, this curriculum lacks variety and options with regard to advanced courses or electives. Students would benefit from a choice of elective courses to enhance their learning experience.
In an effort to improve problem-solving and critical thinking skills for students in math and science, NOVA’s staff would benefit considerably from greater formalized and individual follow-up on professional development topics introduced and from more individualized instructional coaching and modeling.
ELL students need to be identified at the earliest opportunity in order to provide bilingual support from instructional aide and incorporate SDAIE teaching strategies into regular classroom instruction.
Evidence: Self Study, Focus Group meetings, interviews with staff, classroom observation, interviews with students, interview with Program Improvement provider
CATEGORY D: STANDARDS-BASED STUDENT LEARNING: ASSESSMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY
D1. To what extent does the school use a professionally acceptable assessment process to collect, disaggregate, analyze and to report student performance data to the parents and other stakeholders of the community?
As a part of a pilot program through the California Charter Schools Association, NOVA had the chance to evaluate data analysis programs to use by CCSA members. As a result, NOVA uses Zoom! Data Director system to report correlated results from CAHSEE, CST and CELDT testing, as well as results from internally administered exams, including teacher-developed tests. The system has a bank of standards-based questions to draw from to appropriately assess student achievement. Ongoing professional development addresses the questions and needs of staff as they broaden their use of the system and analysis of test results. Teachers in curricular areas not addressed by the test bank have created their own benchmark tests.
Teachers are also using formative assessments and summative benchmark tests linked to state standards in their classrooms. Those assessments help identify student progress and whether there is a need for re-teaching. Test scores led to the creation of the Math and English coaching classes at the middle school level and the Practical Math classes at the higher levels, as well as the use of a two-year Algebra I program.
NOVA sends out progress reports every six weeks to keep parents abreast of their student’s progress. In addition, parents can see daily attendance, grades and assignments through the online Power School/Power Grade program. There is also a formal Parent/Student/Teacher conference scheduled each semester.
D2. To what extent do teachers employ a variety of assessment strategies to evaluate student learning?
To what extent do students and teachers use these findings to modify the teaching/learning process of every student?
In addition to state tests, including CST’s, the CAHSEE and the CELDT, teachers use essays, research papers, labwork, book reports and projects to assess student progress. Vocabulary checks, study guides, checks for understanding are a part of the variety of formative assessments used by the NOVA staff. Math teachers use a T-chart for students to re-evaluate questions they have missed on assessments; they rework the problem on one side and analyze where they made mistakes on the other side. Students have responded very positively to this technique. The use of individual dry erase boards to quickly check for understanding and portfolios to show growth over time are other methods being used in classrooms at NOVA. Professional development has focused on teaching strategies to improve student achievement from such researchers as Robert Marzano and the use of those strategies is evident in classrooms.
Currently, the school is working to compare CST and CAHSEE results to semester grades to better align curriculum to state standards. Classroom assessments, CST and CELDT results indicated the need for an additional EL aide. Classroom assessments are used to determine the kinds of interventions which may help students who may be falling behind. Assigning students to Power Hour tutoring based on classwork allows the students to review and master skills and concepts. Teachers also have time to meet together and discuss students’ progress, not just in a curricular area but across the students’ schedules.
D3. To what extent does the school with support of the district and community have an assessment and monitoring system to determine student progress toward achievement of the academic standards and the expected school-wide learning results?
Advisory classes provide teachers with a chance to communicate with students and monitor their progress across the board. Advisory teachers offer counseling for students through their regular contact. Students who do not have their homework completed by the Advisory period are assigned to Homework Club that day at lunch to finish their work.
If a student is falling behind in a class or having trouble with a particular unit or concept, they are assigned to PowerHour, an hour of monitored work time after school Monday through Thursday. Parents are notified in advance of the student’s PowerHour assignment, both to keep them informed of the student’s progress and to allow them to make plans. The PowerHour time also allows students to work on mastery, as well as simply making up work in a given subject. Both students and staff feel that PowerHour benefits them.
All classes give benchmark tests throughout the year. These tests are aligned with the state standards and the course curriculum. Teachers use the benchmark results to assess student progress and to provide re-teaching and additional support if it is necessary.
Charter representatives visit the school annually and review academic progress with the staff and students. Finance and facilities issues as well as personal growth topics are also addressed in that visit. The administration regularly reports to the Board regarding student achievement.
D4. To what extent does the assessment of student achievement in relation to the academic standards and the expected school-wide learning results, drive the school’s program, its regular evaluation and improvement and usage of resources?
The staff and administration at NOVA are constantly assessing individual courses and the overall program being offered to students. Because they are still relatively new, they have not been shy about effecting change when necessary. The staff feels that they are able to suggest change based on student data and that the administration is willing to listen and consider it.
When it became clear that a one-year algebra class was not meeting the needs of students, that class became a two-year offering in the fall of 2009. Math has been a problem for many students, as evidenced by both CAHSEE and CST test scores, and this will allow students to strengthen their math skills before progressing to geometry. Practical Math has also been added this year to give additional practice in math for students taking the CAHSEE, particularly those who have taken it and not passed the math portion. Additional reading and math practice classes have also been added at the middle school level for those students whose test scores in those areas have been low.
NOVA added a Career Choices class this year because they felt that students needed to begin to plan for post secondary success. This class not only provides information about life after high school and how to prepare, but also provides writing practice for students.
Areas of Strength
The staff is using Data Director to generate data to use in analyzing student progress. They continue to find new ways to access, compare and analyze data.
Parents have direct access to student achievement and attendance data through Power School.
The use of rubrics to give a clear idea of expectations for student work prior to beginning that work.
The use of benchmark tests to test for mastery.
Continue to revise and improve benchmark tests, including creating benchmarks in non-core areas
Continue to explore the capabilities of Data Director in order to provide information to refine instruction.
Evidence: Self Study, Focus Group meetings, interviews with staff, classroom observation, interviews with students
CATEGORY E: SCHOOL CULTURE AND SUPPORT FOR STUDENT PERSONAL AND ACADEMIC GROWTH
E1. To what extent does the school leadership employ a wide range of strategies to encourage parental and community involvement, especially with the teaching/learning process?
NOVA has in place a number of strategies to promote parental and community involvement. They offer counseling for students and make referrals for families. Many community members are not aware of the existence of this program and in some instances are resistant to the concept. NOVA has worked to encourage understanding of and participation in the program and more parents are buying in to the concept and allowing their students to participate. Currently there are a number of students who have been identified by the staff and are receiving counseling. There are also “social skills” groups that meet with a staff member on an as needed basis to deal with conflicts and inappropriate or problem behaviors.
Parents/guardians are requested to provide e-mail addresses in an effort to facilitate school-to-home communication. The monthly newsletter, as well as information about daily menus, activities, schedules, college information and general information, is available on the school’s website. Parents/guardians are able to access the Power School site which provides access to student attendance and grades. Power School also provides parents access to assignments and transcripts. A monthly bi-lingual newsletter is also published. The newsletter is taken home by the students who are required to have their parent sign a “tear-off” that is returned to the school. This publication contains the same types of information provided on-line in English. Parents feel welcome at NOVA and feel that they can contact the school at any time to discuss their child’s progress.
Student progress reports are mailed home every six weeks. Parents/guardians also receive weekly Power Hour referral letters if their student is in danger of failing a course. NOVA feels that these communications provide an invitation for parents to contact the school with concerns or questions.
NOVA staff is aware that many of their students will be the first high school graduate in their family and that their family’s previous experiences make them uncomfortable participating in school activities. Various opportunities for parent participation have been successful including potlucks, Project Fair and student performances. The staff feels that with their demographic group they need to provide opportunities for their students to receive academic “parenting” at school. One of the ways they accomplish this is through Power Hour.Power Hour is directlyafter school. At this time students have not only a place to study, but access to their teachers for assistance with assignments. Teachers also are available in their classrooms for thirty minutes after school to help with assignments or general questions.
Each student is provided a school planner/calendar to record all assignments. Teachers stamp each planner at the end of the period to verify that the student has complied. At the midpoint of each semester a parent teacher conference is scheduled for each student. Times are available both during school and in the evening. Progress reports are also mailed home at this time.
NOVA partners with Los Angeles Mission College to allow access to college level courses. Students may take required classes as well as enrichment classes. Impacted funds and classes at L.A Mission have made this option more difficult, but it is still available. Students may also access enrichment and remedial classes through APEX. Grade level field trips are an important part of the student curriculum and help to promote a more global learning environment. Students recently visited the Science Museum and will soon be visiting the junior college and the university in Santa Barbara. These trips help to encourage a college going culture and allow the students to see the world beyond their immediate community.
E2. To what extent is the school a safe, clean, and orderly place that nurtures learning?
NOVA is a safe, clean and orderly campus. Due to the small size of the campus it is easily
visually monitored. The staff member in charge of maintenance is also charged with
supervising the students and campus as a whole during the day . The same staff member is
additionally assigned to watch and supervise the students during lunch, breaks and passing
NOVA has established procedures for earthquakes , fires and other disasters and practices
emergency procedures on a regular basis.
There is a nurse on campus to monitor the disaster drills as well as student health issues.
Current contact/emergency information is available for all students in the school office. The entrance to the campus is monitored through an intercom/buzzer system. All visitors including, parents, are required to sign in and wear a pass when on the campus.
Discipline issues are dealt with by the Dean of Students and an assistant using procedures that
are outlined in the student handbook. The school adheres to the California Education Code
and procedures as outlined by the Los Angeles Unified School District. There are various levels of discipline that may include in-school suspension, referrals and expulsion.
To what extent is the culture of the school characterized by trust, professionalism, high expectations for all students, and a focus on continuous school improvement?
The small size of the staff and student body at NOVA creates opportunities for frequent communication between staff and students. This type of communication breeds trust and understanding among all groups on campus. The staff genuinely cares for and is dedicated to their students and to the mission of the school. The students report that they feel the staff is available to hear them and to help them in any way needed.
The staff meets every Wednesday for two and one half hours as well as having monthly all-day staff development meetings during student release time. These meetings have allowed the staff to focus on needs such as classroom management, curriculum development, test scores and individual student needs that have created an environment where students are able to feel cared for and grow academically and as individuals.
Positive school culture is emphasized during the implementation of the School Connect curriculum. This program is designed to give the students a common vocabulary as they discuss issues such as emotional intelligence, study skills and conflict mediation. The school also works diligently to teach academic vocabulary as a means to greater learning potential and future success.
E3. To what extent do all students receive appropriate support along with an individualized learning plan to help ensure academic success?
Students enrolled at NOVA have a variety of options if they need extra time or support to learn
a concept or complete an assignment. Each morning all students have their homework
checked and stamped during their advisory period. If a student has failed to complete any
assignment they are required to attend Homework Club during their lunch time. Teachers also
have a thirty minute office time daily after school when students can visit for additional help.
Teachers prepare an “at risk student intervention log” for any student that is in danger of
failing a class. Teachers meet with the students during office hours to discuss where the
specifically for students who are having difficulty in math or English, however any student may attend and many students attend in order to have a quiet place to work. Parents are notified through the
mail that their child will need to attend the following week.
Special Education students as well as English Language Learners are mainstreamed with
support from either the Special Education teacher or the EL teacher. Special needs students receive numerous accommodations including extra time, special test taking rooms, one on one help and modified assignments. The accommodations in place appear to allow the students to be successful in mainstream classes. A fully credentialed Special Education teacher works with the staff and parents in creating the appropriate IEP for each student. There are no formalized enrichment programs available for GATE or honors students, but concurrent enrollment in junior college classes is available on a limited basis. The school is exploring the possibility of students being able to take AP classes on line using the APEX Program.
Upon enrollment each high school student with the help of a teacher prepares an academic plan outlining what is required for graduation. The plans are reviewed and updated as necessary each semester. Though the course offerings at any given grade level are roughly the same for every student at that grade level, the school reviews the success of that sequence of offerings and has made changes based on student needs and success.
E4. To what extent do students have access to a system of personal support services, activities and opportunities at the school and within the community? Teachers at NOVA function as counselors through the advisory period. During this time the
teachers provide guidance for graduation requirements as well as support for homework. The
Advisory teacher is also available during Homework Club, Power Hour and assigned office hours.
They also provide assistance for 11th and 12th grade students for college applications and financial aid forms. The staff also facilitates the applications necessary for the students to take the PSAT and the SAT. The administrative staff is also a part of the team that provides necessary assistance for the students.
The Dean of Students works with students who have exhibited behavior problems. The Dean stresses positive discipline including relevant consequences and goal setting. The students have access to group mediation, anger management and conflict resolution. NOVA is in the process of developing a Peer Court and Peer Mediation groups. NOVA provides individual and family counseling through Phillips Graduate University and the California Family Counseling Center for students with referrals available for families.
Clubs and athletics are minimal at NOVA in part due to the size of the student body. However, there are opportunities available if students choose to participate. In an effort to supplement the program, a variety of field trips are available throughout the year including week-end drama workshops, overnight trips to State and National Parks and visits to UC Berkeley. Staff is aware of the need for more opportunities for student activities and is exploring various options. NOVA will be entering CIF play in soccer and volleyball in the fall of 2010.
Students explore possible careers through the Career Choices class, advisory, and community speakers.
Areas of strength
Dedication of all staff
Availability of support for at risk students
Safe, clean campus
Power Hour, Power School, Homework Club
The need for a wider variety of course offerings
The need for student leadership opportunities
Need for a wider variety of extra-curricular activities
Evidence: Self Study, Focus Group meetings, interviews with staff, classroom observation, interviews with students, interviews with parents, parent survey
Part B: School-wide Strengths and Critical Areas for Follow-up
The previous one-day candidacy visit identified a number of areas for growth, all of which have been addressed in the ensuing three years. The school has focused its efforts on creating a solid academic experience for the students it serves, with the goal of preparing those students for post-secondary life, whether it included additional schooling or not. In doing that, NOVA has established a firm philosophy of education for its staff and students and that is its guiding principle.
In looking at the previous areas of strength and critical areas for growth, at the program at NOVA and at the strengths and areas for follow-up identified by the staff, the Visiting Team has determined the following school-wide Areas of Strength and Critical Areas for Follow-up:
Areas of Strength
Commitment of Staff and Administration to their students and to the vision of the school
The ability to recognize and diagnose problems and the willingness to propose and implement change in a timely manner
Ability to identify the individual needs of all students including those who are deficient in credits or in need of support and remediation
Supportive interventions for struggling students provided through a variety of programs such as Advisory, Homework Club and Power Hour
Commitment to graduate all students A-G ready in order for them to take full advantage of the widest array of post-secondary options
Ongoing commitment of administration and staff to growth through professional
Critical Areas for Growth
Pursue additional core classes and electives through a variety of delivery methods
Pursue ways to support and maintain staffing stability
Continue to pursue the recruitment of additional Board members
Continue improving student achievement with particular emphasis on raising math and science scores
Pursue additional funding opportunities such as grants of all kinds and community donations
Chapter 5: Ongoing School Improvement
NOVA’s Action Plan has 5 goals. They have chosen to address one goal to each of the sections of Chapter 4, using their findings and analysis to support the need. Those goals are:
Expand NOVA’s Board of trustees and expand the knowledge base and skills of Board members.
Since charter schools must find their own Boards, NOVA feels that a larger Board can best represent the school in the community and provide the school with their expertise in a variety of areas.
Expand NOVA’s curriculum to support at-risk students by focusing on college and career preparation.
A significant portion of the NOVA population can be labeled as at-risk. The staff and administration feels that it needs to continue to expand the curricular offerings and support for that population so that they can finish high school and have the greatest number of options available to them upon graduation. Their plan includes further emphasis on the Career Choices program. Expanding elective options and developing student government and leadership opportunities.
Improve student achievement in all curricular areas with particular attention to math and science and to meeting the needs of students with special needs.
Because so many students at NOVA are at-risk, they are often behind in skill development, particularly in math and reading skills. NOVA’s plan addresses aligning curriculum to standards, continuing to find and implement strategies designed to help at-risk students, better assessment and placement of EL students and continuing to create and refine benchmark assessments.
Increase availability of, access to and use of comprehensive student achievement data.
Accurate assessment of student achievement depends, in some part, on the understanding of and competent use of data. The staff at NOVA has begun to use the DataDirector system and is beginning to find ways to produce more specific data for their students efficiently. The school wants to expand the understanding and use of both Power School and DataDirector to provide all stakeholders with timely, accurate information regarding student progress.
Enhance student engagement and school culture by increasing emphasis on college and career readiness.
The school feels that students will be more engaged in a program that they can see has a direct outcome for them. To that end, this goal addresses early identification of graduation requirements, creating a 10-year plan for secondary and post-secondary success and involving parents in the planning process.
Overall, the Action Plan is in sync with the school’s identified strengths and areas of need, as well as with the Visiting Team’s. The school’s charter has contained goals that have led them to this point in their development and these are easily identifiable “next steps”. The Action Plan steps will enhance student learning, both in classrooms and through a strong staff and administration. This Action Plan takes concerns and programs already in place and extends them in pursuit of a higher level of output and success. A great deal of the Action Plan depends more on energy and initiative than on financial support, which is good news in the current fiscal climate. Should the pilot program with DataDirector end without the school subscribing in the future, aspects of the Power School program already in place replace data offerings from the other program. The staff and administration are all enthusiastic and committed to all aspects of the Action Plan and feel that it is a positive plan for their students.
The staff and administration already work closely in all aspects of NOVA. Focused professional development and time to collaborate outside of the school day are already in place. The staff and the facility are small and they communicate easily and regularly. The Visiting Team was very impressed with the collegiality of the staff and their willingness to work together and share ideas and results. The administration provides direction and leadership and works to include the ideas and suggestions of the staff. NOVA has a very positive atmosphere.
The student population at NOVA is often an at-risk population. Teachers are faced with a lack of skills in their students which makes presenting their curriculum more challenging, though not impossible. Having to back up to be able to go forward continues to present impediments to progress.
The other question mark at the current moment is financial support. NOVA as no problem making the program work with the budget they have made as long as the state upholds its obligations. The constant fluctuation in school funding of late makes planning difficult, but for NOVA, this is why there is a need for a larger board with contacts in more areas that could benefit the financial status of the school.
The school already has a regular follow-up process for its programs and activities. The Principal is actively involved in all areas of the school and regular faculty meetings provide time to report on what is happening at the school. The school is also regularly accountable to the Board and has an annual visit from the charter representatives for LAUSD as well.