USC Report Names Top 10 California Charter Schools

June 15, 2011

Report also includes Ratings of Financial Health and Academic Performance among more than 800 State Charter Campuses

A USC report issued to strengthen accountability among California charter schools includes for the first time a list of the state’s top 10 charter campuses.

The fifth annual “USC School Performance Dashboard” (formerly CSI-USC) was released Wednesday by the Center on Educational Governance at the USC Rossier School of Education.

“It’s a way to take the data collected for accountability purposes and transform it into information that will help parents, teachers and investors,” said lead author Priscilla Wohlstetter, director of the Center on Educational Governance.

“We were really struck by the diversity of the schools in the top 10,” Wohlstetter said. “There’s not one model of schooling that is dominant: they are large and small, urban and suburban, high schools and elementary schools.”

While most of the top 10 schools are stand-alone campuses, three are affiliated with a charter management organization – Aspire Public Schools.

The top charter schools were chosen based on academic ratings – including an index based on various state test scores – and school productivity indicators that rate a school’s academic success based on its per-student spending.

For a full copy of the report and an accompanying interactive database, go to school-performance.usc.edu.

The top 10 California charter school performers are (listed in order):

1.    Heritage K-8 Charter School, Escondido (San Diego County)
2.    Rocklin Academy, Rocklin (Placer County)
3.    Temecula Valley Charter School, Winchester (Riverside County)
4.    Aspire Vincent Shalvey Academy, Stockton (San Joaquin County)
5.    Aspire River Oaks Charter School, Stockton (San Joaquin County)
6.    Willow Creek Academy, Sausalito (Marin County)
7.    Orange County High School of the Arts, Santa Ana (Orange County)
8.    St. HOPE Public School 7, Sacramento (Sacramento County)
9.    Aspire East Palo Alto Charter School, East Palo Alto (San Mateo County)
10.   Wilder’s Preparatory Academy Charter, Inglewood (Los Angeles County)

Across the United States, the number of charter schools has continued to grow. In fall 2010, California – home to 807 charters, more than any other state – opened 90 new charter schools: an 8 percent growth.

At the same time, organizations that authorize charter school campuses have raised their standards, closing 160 charter schools nationally during the 2009-10 school year due to problems with finance, management or poor student performance.

“This kind of report can provide some early warning signs for schools that may not be as stable or healthy financially or academically as they need to be,” Wohlstetter said.

The report also includes snapshots comparing charter and non-charter public campuses during the 2009-10 school year. Among the most notable findings are:

– Charter schools have nearly twice as many black students (13.1 percent) than non-charter public schools (6.8 percent). Still, the majority of charter school staff members are white (65.7 percent), with only 5.4 percent of staffers who identify as black.

– Charter schools’ average enrollment (398 students) is smaller than that of non-charter public schools (610 students). Enrollment on charter campuses has increased from last year’s average of 382 students.

– Non-charter public schools have a higher student to computer ratio – 11.4 students per computer – than do charter schools (9.3 students per computer). Last year, charter schools had about seven students per computer.

Major funding for the “USC School Performance Dashboard 2011” was provided by
the Los Angeles-based Ahmanson Foundation, Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and the Weingart Foundation.

The Center on Educational Governance researches the linkages between policy, governance and the improvement of urban schools and systems. Its interdisciplinary approach offers policy solutions to the educational challenges posed by an increasingly global society.

Current Center on Educational Governance research includes education reform, school and district governance and public-private partnerships, improving the quality of school systems, increasing accountability, and spreading innovation across states, districts, and between traditional public and charter schools.


Contact: Merrill Balassone at (213) 740-6156 or balasson@usc.edu