Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter School (SMBCCS) is located in East Hollywood. SMBCCS has been in existence as a public school since 1910. In 2002, SMBCCS converted to independent charter status.
Since initial charter approval in 2002, Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter School has implemented innovative ideas and strategies, and invested human and fiscal resources to improve the quality and effectiveness of the instructional program. In 2002, SMBCCS became the largest conversion charter school within LAUSD. Before converting to charter status, SMBCCS was placed on LAUSD’s one hundred worst schools list. Over the past 10 years, SMBCCS accomplished much, raising student achievement levels as reflected in an API gain of 235 points. SMBCCS received Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC) accreditation, celebrated the school’s centennial, and was able to create and maintain strong community partnerships with Paramount Pictures, the SABAN Free Clinic, Pepperdine University, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. SMBCCS has expanded afterschool programs to include an extraordinary chorus of over 80 students and an award winning drill team.
In December 2011, while preparing for its second charter renewal, the Los Angeles Unified School District identified Santa Monica as a “focus” school due to minimal gains in the state Academic Performance Index (API) standings. In January 2012, the school was notified that its charter was not going to be renewed and the school would revert back to a traditional public school.
The reasons cited by LAUSD included:
· Minimal gains in API scores
· Student achievement (CST) data equal to or less than district/state averages
· Lack of alignment within a cohesive curricular program
· Inconsistent instructional program strategies
The parents and community of SMBCCS were informed that although the school has accomplished much over the past decade, the school has had stagnant test scores and lower academic performance than comparison schools. On January 17, 2012, nine parents delivered a petition signed by 320 parents to LAUSD in support of a charter petition for SMBCCS to become a Fenton Charter Public School (FCPS). As an alternative to reverting to a traditional public school, SMBCCS proposed that they merge with and come under the governance of the FCPS. The SMBCCS Board of Directors sought to merge with FCPS because the schools service very similar students, yet Fenton has demonstrated a history of academic success.
When responding to obstacles, many schools close their doors to scrutiny and collaboration with outsiders. Rather than responding with cyclical blame, Santa Monica proactively sought to merge with an organization with a history of success at increasing student achievement. By being proactive, Santa Monica was able to remain an independent charter school while overhauling its instructional program with effective research based practices to increase student learning.
On May 1, 2012, the Los Angeles Board of Education approved by consensus the divestiture of Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter School (SMBCCS) as a Fenton Charter Public School (FCPS). During the LAUSD Board meeting, Superintendent John Deasy told Board Members that this union was an innovative way to implement school reform and “is a model of what public school accountability should look like.” LAUSD Board Member Tamar Galatzan stated, Fenton “has come up with something that is totally innovative. This is the kind of creative thinking that I hope to see from our charter partners."
FCPS worked diligently with LAUSD’s Charter School Division and with charter advocates to ensure an effective instructional program was articulated and supported with broad appeal as a model for initiating school reform. SMBCCS took on a medical triage approach to screen student need, apply appropriate tiered instruction, monitor student achievement, and revise application of instruction as needed.
During the first year of SMBCCS under the governance of FCPS, the school had an increase of 66 API points during the 2012-13 school year with an API score of 809. The state goal for Santa Monica was 5 API Points. LAUSD’s goal for SMBCCS was 15 API points. The school’s 66 API point gain was one of the highest single year API gains among all of LAUSD elementary schools during the 2012-13 school year. SMBCCS increased 12% in Language Arts, 15% in Math, and 27% in Science from 2012 to 2013. In one year, SMBCCS went from one of the lowest performing schools in its geographic areas to one of the highest. All stakeholders at SMBCCS are committed to working in concert for a symphony of excellence.