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Great Valley charter school scores 800 in first testing year

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POSTED October 26, 2012 1:13 a.m.

Great Valley Academy Principal Russell Howell gave fair warning to staff and parents several months ago about the anticipated results of the 2012 California STAR Testing.

“Whether high, low, or somewhere in between, would represent our baseline,” the principal noted in his e-mail messages to all the people concerned.

But as it turned out, Great Valley’s principal, teachers, parents, and students have every reason to celebrate. On the very first year that the charter school opened in Manteca, they hit the 800 mark in the STAR testing.

That prompted another e-mail message from the principal to everyone. This time, the message was celebratory.

“Those of you who receive the Manteca Bulletin likely read the front page article today regarding the school API scores. In case you missed it, of the 20 elementary school in Manteca Unified, 5 earned an API score of 800 or better; 800 being the California state API target. Manteca Unified over-all API score was 758.”

Howell then went on further to explain, “Great Valley Academy’s API score was not disclosed in the article. I am happy to inform you that our initial API score was 800. This means that we have already met California’s API target in our initial year. We also have established ourselves amongst the top 25% of Manteca Schools, outperforming 15 of the 20 other elementary schools.

“This is obviously a very positive beginning for GVA of Manteca. It brings me a great sense of satisfaction to have accomplished this in our first year while maintaining our commitment to developing student character, while emphasizing music, Spanish, and PE, without teaching to the test, and without overwhelming our students with homework.”

Howell said their success the first year the school campus opened “is the result of a collaborative effort among students, staff, and parents.”

He encouraged everyone to “continue to work together and show those around us that this initial success is just a hint of what is to come for GVA Manteca.”

The initial statement he sent months ago “remains true” despite the school’s STAR testing success the first year they opened in Manteca, Howell said, adding they should not be resting their laurels.

“We will not relax now that we have experienced a measure of success. We are already working hard to ensure that we continue to grow and improve on our initial results,” he said.

“I’d also like to reaffirm that our success is not defined solely by a test store. We are committed to our initial vision: a school where all students feel safe and loved; a school comprised of gifted learners who possess the skills necessary to think creatively and critically; a school where every child is developing the character necessary to succeed in life, not just school; a school that values music, foreign language, and healthy life choices; a school that students, parents, and staff love to be a part of. I could go on and on. We’re trying to create a school that is truly unique in its approach and in its results. We’re off to a great start, but are not there yet. We will continue to work tirelessly to get there.”

GVA’s high performance in the 2012 STAR Testing can be perceived as vindication for its presence in the Manteca Unified School District, specifically in the City of Manteca. When Modesto optometrist and founder of Great Valley Academy in Modesto and Manteca went before the Manteca Unified Board of Trustees with the application to open a charter school here, he was turned down not just once but twice, the second time during the appeal. His next step, which was his appeal before the San Joaquin County Office of Education Board of Education, was also voted down.

But instead of going to the next level of appeal, the state Office of Education, Rosenow and his staff took their next step to the New Jerusalem School District in Tracy whose small board of education welcomed them with open arms. That triumph earned Great Valley Academy the right to open their campus on time for the 2011-12 school year in the former Manteca Christian School facility on Button Avenue owned by the Place of Refuge, formerly the First Assembly of God in Manteca.

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