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Rocklin Academy faces scrutiny during renewal

By: Lauren Gibbs, The Placer Herald
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Rocklin Academy, Turnstone campus, a kindergarten through sixth-grade charter school in Rocklin, is up for renewal. According to a California education code regarding charter schools, charter schools must file a request for renewal to the district they serve, proving their success and following the guidelines for charter schools. Rocklin Academy opened nine years ago and has seen large success in the test scores of its students. The school is requesting a renewal through June of 2015. But what may hinder the renewal of the school, which has campuses at Rocklin and Ruhkala elementary schools, is the district’s view on the school’s failure to serve special education and other underserved students. Dave Patterson, executive director of Rocklin Academy, came to last Wednesday’s Rocklin Unified School District board of trustees meeting prepared to share the school’s success within the last few years. He called it a “time for celebration.” “We’ve had eight and a half, going on nine years, of unprecedented success,” Patterson said. The intent of his presentation was to demonstrate that Rocklin Academy’s renewal is earned. Rocklin Academy, Turnstone campus, earned an Academic Performance Index score of 948, the highest of the schools within the district and the county. Additionally, Patterson said the school is fiscally sound and has strong revenues. “It’s open to all and everyone has the same chance, through an open enrollment,” Patterson said. “We’re proud of how we support all of our students, everyday.” Despite the high academic achievement at Rocklin Academy, Rocklin district trustees had issues with the school underserving English-learning students, special education students, free and reduced lunch students and socioeconomically disadvantaged students, they said. Trustee Camille Maben congratulated the Rocklin Academy team on their success, but addressed an issue she said was raised five years ago when the school was up for renewal previously. “How do we ensure that Rocklin Academy reflects the district?” Maben asked. Maben asked Rocklin Academy representatives what outreach will be done and how it will differ this time to reach the harder-to-reach communities. “What will you commit to do to reach out to enroll and attain these underserved learners in Rocklin?” Board President Todd Lowell asked. Another issue Trustee Wendy Lang said she has with the renewal of Rocklin Academy is only seeing high-achieving students in the data. Lang said she would like to see the test scores of students before they enrolled in Rocklin Academy looked at against the scores of students after one year or more with Rocklin Academy, which would show student progress. Without the data, Lang said she is concerned that only already high-achieving students are being serviced at the charter school. Patterson said Rocklin Academy has 15 percent of its students receiving some type of intervention. But another issue Maben addressed was questioning if the parent participation requirements hinder socieconomically disadvantaged students from attending Rocklin Academy, which may “put up a road block for a family who struggles,” Maben said. Wendy Boyd, chairwoman of the board of directors for Rocklin Academy, said it wasn’t an issue, as there are many ways for parents to meet the 30 hours of volunteer work a year requirement without coming to the school during class time. Patterson said it’s an approach that has proven to link to student success. Rocklin Academy’s renewal will be brought to an upcoming board meeting for an approval or denial. If the renewal is denied at the local district level, Rocklin Academy representatives can appeal the denial at the county, then state levels.