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Great Valley Academy gains in state testing

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POSTED August 31, 2013 1:58 a.m.

Great Valley Academy in Manteca is on a roll.

On the very first year the public charter school opened, the Button Avenue campus earned an API score of 800. That was last year, when five of the nearly two-dozen schools in Manteca Unified posted an API score of 800 or better.

The 2013 API score is even better for the academy. They gained 4 points from the previous year, giving them a 2013 score of 804.

Eight-hundred is the state API target.

The school’s initial API score in 2012 was significant as far as Principal Russell Howell was concerned. First, it meant that the charter school had met California’s API target during its first year of operation. The impressive API score also established the school as among the top 25 percent of Manteca’s schools outperforming 15 of the 20 other elementary schools in Manteca Unified.

Commenting on the 2013 API good news, Howell said, “As a community, the GVA faculty, staff, and parents have maintained their commitment to students first, and one another, second. There is a culture that is developing here that is truly special, and it has a tangible effect on our students. one of our mottos is Safe, Loved, and Learning. Because our students feel safe and loved, they are ready and willing to learn. This environment can only be established and maintained by a community, and thus far, our community is thriving.”

Like almond trees, he said by way of an analogy, “you don’t harvest the first year or even two” after you planted them, Howell pointed out.

And that’s how it’s been for Great Valley in Manteca, he noted.

“Being that we just completed our second year, growth was largely dependent upon us stabilizing as a school and refining our systems and procedures. Opening a school is a challenging process. To move forward, we had to learn from our experiences and commit to improvement on a daily basis. Year two was about applying the lessons learned and making tangible steps to improve our academy,” Howell said.

Last year, he credited the school’s stellar API performance to the “collaborative effort among students, staff, and parents.”

During National Charter Schools Week in May, the Center for Educational Reform described Great Valley as one of the “few (charter school) models that exist.”

The online story, citing the reasons for that honor noted, among other things, the school’s 800

API score achievement during its first year of operation.

Additionally, the story stated, the school’s “kids include high numbers of children with dyslexia, ADD and Autism, yet their students are able to function without academic deficiencies. Great Valley ensures that not only does every child succeed academically, but every class learns to run a business.”

Great Valley took over the old Manteca Christian School campus on Button Avenue. It is a branch of the Modesto GVA. After being denied sponsorship by Manteca Unified and the San Joaquin County Office of Education, the tuition-free school was approved by New Jerusalem School District in Tracy.

Great Valley continues to maintain a long waiting list of students who want to attend the school which is funded by average daily attendance funds from the state, just like public schools.

Contact Rose Albano Risso at or at (209) 249-3536.

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