Are high school academies desired?

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By SB Woman

There are many high school academies at our 3 high schools with little info known by the public. 

1. How much does it cost to be in a SB Unified high school Academy?  Do they cost the same?

  • SBHS has MAD, Computer, Green, VADA, and Culinary
  • SMHS has APPLe, (Academy of Public Policy and Leadership) and Health Academy
  • DPHS has Engineering Academy and maybe others. 

2. What’s the process to get in?  Who decides who gets admitted? Are parents or community on selection committee? 

3. What provisions are there for middle class and poor students? 

Technically public schools don’t charge but it’s understood academies keep bright students in the public system rather than going private to keep our local school rankings high to the benefit of property homeowners and business. 

I saw on-line DPHS has 40% College Ready with 56% math proficient; SBHigh has 39% College Ready and 28% math proficient, and SMHS has 28% College Ready and 33% math proficient.  

4. Why so much low achievement when our schools are all basic aid funded in a high property tax paying wealthy town?   

5. What would happen if academies were closed?  I heard too much money is spent on more administrators and increasing number of District positions and too little on student instruction, and academic programs, as in teachers.   

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VinSB May 02, 2019 05:50 PM
Are high school academies desired?

Information on these academies is available and known to to the public - junior high aged kids deciding on which high school to attend sign up to tour the high schools (they are informed through assemblies given by the counseling department). They take an excused day off from school, "shadow" an existing high school student, and indicate if they would like to check out any of the listed academies, programs, or classes. To answer #1 above, participation in these programs is free - to charge for a public education is illegal! My child graduated from one of these academies.. There was an application to complete and selection was performed by the director, or a committee comprised of the director and the teachers. To include parents in the selection process wouldn't be wise, in my opinion. Regarding test scores, I believe that there is too much emphasis placed here, as there is so much more to learn in life than what is bureaucratically mandated in a yearly exam. In addition, it takes a toll on student mental health. An academy (focused on the student's interest) paves a smoother path through these challenging years and prevents disengagement. It is pretty widely known that students of a higher socioeconomic status in general do well on standardized tests and students from poor families & second language learners, do not. This has always been a problem and school officials, the dept of education, etc., have always looked for solutions, for example free preschool, free breakfast/lunch for all, reducing segregation by eliminating the GATE program (they try!) making honors classes available to whomever wishes to take them, etc. Recently, the purpose of SBCC placement testing has become obsolete, as students can take any level of English/math they want, and support is available. This was designed to level the playing field, not to mention free community college for all through "the Promise."

a-1557325843 May 08, 2019 07:30 AM
Are high school academies desired?

It appears there is universal access to SBUnified Academies but a capacity management problem. So, why not expand capacity to ensure all qualified students with passion are admitted? As it is now a Committee must decide who is in and who is out. Additional money is required to operate some Academy programs which eliminates blind review of applications. A certain percentage of students must be admitted with parents who can pay — same is true for Varsity High School Sports: pay to play. Moreover, parents able and willing to cross subsidize another student are I high demand. If deemed able to pay more than for just your own student, pressure is applied to subsidize the cost of another student or be singled out for implicit bias training or other consequence including retraction of program acceptance for your student. Penalize a qualified accepted student because a parent deemed by outsiders as financially capable won’t pay double for another person’s child? The SB Scholarship Foundation is needed to provide necessary funding to these students; or FIRE the many worthless administrators at the top heavy SBUnified Headquarters. Didn’t Sarvis eliminate Asst Seconday Supt? Why does new $324,000 Supt Cary need Shaun Carey for $250,000? Both are inept. Use the money to expand Academy capacity- use for teachers and students.

Luvaduck May 03, 2019 08:33 AM
Are high school academies desired?

If anyone who wants to participate is the criteria in the interest of promoting universal access, I want to be a basketball player. I need the money and qualify as a minority: white, female and I may have arthritis in my fingers, so, handicapped, too.

Flicka May 02, 2019 04:51 PM
Are high school academies desired?

Unbelievable that the U.S. is extremely low in the educational ranking list of developed countries worldwide. We have to get a grip on education. Maybe less for the military excesses and tax cuts for the wealthy; whatever it takes to properly teach our children. Good teachers need decent pay and smaller classes. Remember many years ago when a math teacher in a poor district taught his Hispanic students calculus? No one believed it, thought the kids weren't capable of such "high learning". Shut into a room by the disbelieving "educators", the students aced the calculus test they were given. Good teachers are worth their weight in gold!

HEH May 02, 2019 02:17 PM
Are high school academies desired?

1) Technically there is no extra charge to be in an Academy. Most all have some type of suggested additional VOLUNTARY contribution that is designed to cover the extra expenses of running the programs. Every type of solicitation for student/parent funding must include a very clear statement that it is voluntary. (I indicate "technically" as some students won't join simply because they don't feel comfortable having other sources fund the voluntary contribution.)
2) As I understand the process now it includes "blind" applications and the group of volunteers and staff who review the applications don't know who the applicant is. I believe, but could be wrong, that they actually have done away with letters of recommendations. Each year every Academy provides a detailed update to the School Board as to their programs and demographics and they are definitely grilled on the demographic status and results.
3) Any student is eligible to apply. The individual Academy raises extra funds from some generous parents, supporters and outside business and philanthropic organizations to help fund those who are "middle class" and "Poor"
Are Academies a valuable addition to public education? Absolutely. It is impossible to have the high level of expertise and experience they each offer at every High School. In Santa Barbara students can chose the High School which they desire to attend based on their desires especially as it relates to a particular interest and subject matter. In the past many students have gone to DPHS for the Engineering Academy, San Marcos for the Apple Academy and Santa Barbara for MAD and VADA. Now them have many other choices as listed in #1 above. They all serve a special need and as I indicated all High Schools can't provide them all. Students definitely benefit if they are willing to put in the extra effort called for in every Academy.

420722 May 02, 2019 12:44 PM
Are high school academies desired?

Those are low numbers. California is not doing well in education. We need to make sure the kids get a better education starting in elementary.

Factotum May 02, 2019 12:19 PM
Are high school academies desired?

Good to learn what exactly is going on at SBUSD. Good questions. Whole point of local education is for the local community to be involved, run for school board positions, attend school board meetings and work as informed community members to expect better than the currently low achievement levels our schools continue to put out. SBCC will no longer offer remedial courses to make up for what they did not get by the time they graduated from SBUSD. Why have we tolerated dumbing down public education in this state? K-12 education is our biggest tax dollar expense by far. Nothing comes close, and all we get is #42 ranking nationwide? Major clean-up is necessary.

Luvaduck May 03, 2019 08:38 AM
Are high school academies desired?

I think some of the problem is that needing to repeat a grade has become a no-no politically. (It's always been somewhat of a stigma to kids.) The reality is that if you can't read/do math at 3rd grade level by the end of the year, you are not prepared to handle 4th grade reading and math. Besides the ESL issues, some kids' brains mature slower just like some kids' bodies mature earlier or later.

Luvaduck May 03, 2019 08:44 AM
Are high school academies desired?

Can anybody who wants to play on varsity athletic teams? Why should academic teams be chosen on anything but talent/ability/interest in that field? All people aren't created equal. Some are tall, some are musical, some are strong, some are bright, some are agile--and so forth. The challenge in public education is to teach each as much as they can and want to learn. If you're a strong swimmer but can't/don't learn to read, you can be a life-guard but you can't enter the Coast Guard Academy.

RHS May 03, 2019 08:39 AM
Are high school academies desired?

693--YES to paying more taxes for schools. Certainly I would be happy to give some of what money is now taken from me to subsidize college sports, professional athletic stadiums, war preparation and other stuff to K-12 schools for all. And for those who give to "private" schools maybe it would be nice to see if they would do so absent tax benefits.

a-1556838637 May 02, 2019 04:10 PM
Are high school academies desired?

RHS - so NO academic programs, beyond what our government pays for from taxes, should be permitted? Are you really saying that? Would you be open to paying higher taxes so our education system didn't have to rely on donations to educate our children?

RHS May 02, 2019 04:07 PM
Are high school academies desired?

12:22 pm. They should support public education by paying taxes and such just as the rest of us do. They should not be allowed to pick and choose what people and which programs they favor against the public weal. This is only a request for equity and fairness. Don't load the dice.

a-1556824954 May 02, 2019 12:22 PM
Are high school academies desired?

RHS - So what's your point? Institutions who receive donations should not be allowed? That's absurd. If public school funds aren't enough, why shouldn't businesses, individuals and other entities be able to help support advanced programs?

RHS May 02, 2019 10:45 AM
Are high school academies desired?

In a more crowded world parents are willing to cheat and push and fight for a better place for their children. Today's paper shows Stanford got $770,000 for accepting a Chinese kid who claimed to be an athlete. Parents with such resources are spending huge amounts to have their kids trained as athletes or musicians or given academic help while the less affluent try to compete on the level. Not a fair fight. "Academies" and charter schools are just the obvious point of this conflict. Student who are good in one sport immediately drop out of their local school and enroll at a place that promises them college. Etc. Not sure how to fight it but closing down public money subsidies to these private privilege institutions is a good start.

a-1556822932 May 02, 2019 11:48 AM
Are high school academies desired?

RHS - yes, they "select" students based on academic achievement and interviews, so what? Not all kids are able to handle the rigors of certain specialized programs (that's why not every person on Earth is an engineer). That's not a "private privilege," it's a selective program. You really think we should shut down ALL programs (academic and otherwise) that do not accept all applicants? As for your "understanding" that families fund these academies, where's your proof? We pay for these programs through our property taxes, just as we pay for public schools in that manner.

a-1556822898 May 02, 2019 11:48 AM
Are high school academies desired?

RHS - yes, they "select" students based on academic achievement and interviews, so what? Not all kids are able to handle the rigors of certain specialized programs (that's why not every person on Earth is an engineer). That's not a "private privilege," it's a selective program. You really think we should shut down ALL programs (academic and otherwise) that do not accept all applicants? As for your "understanding" that families fund these academies, where's your proof? We pay for these programs through our property taxes, just as we pay for public schools in that manner.

RHS May 02, 2019 11:40 AM
Are high school academies desired?

10:52 a.m. DPHS's Academy selectively accepts students and by definition excludes students. Not all public school kids are equal despite the claims (to paraphrase "Animal Farm.") It is also my understanding that substantial "funding" is provided to that "Academy" by private contributions from families and businesses lobbied by the families. No such resources are available for the regular student trying to get a handle on algebra or auto mechanics.

a-1556819539 May 02, 2019 10:52 AM
Are high school academies desired?

RHS - these acadamies, especially DPHS's Engineering Academy, are not "private privilege institutions." These are simply programs within the public high schools that are now desirable to be in.

a-1556817832 May 02, 2019 10:23 AM
Are high school academies desired?

4. Not all of SB is thriving. There are a lot of people who barely scrape by living here, working multiple jobs and little to no time to parent, help with homework, and be involved in their child's education. It's a sad but true reality for a huge part of our local population.

mm1970 May 02, 2019 10:20 AM
Are high school academies desired?

1. I don't think SBUSD is basic aid anymore. I think we were basic aid for a year and are likely returning to the previous funding model (per student).
2. Some of the academies are "pay to play" I believe, but many are not. This means they are open to poor students. I've heard great things about the Computer academy at SBHS, as all of its classes are open to all students - whether or not they are in the academy.
3. Many if not all of the academies have parents on the selection committees. The process varies by academy. I expect that most, if not all, of the academies have far more qualified applicants than spots.
4. Why so much low achievement in a town with a lot of money? Poverty. The strongest correlation with achievement and test scores is socio-economic status. If you are poor, it's hard to learn. SB has money AND poverty. Our high schools' scores generally match statewide percentages.
5. Have you been to an SBUSD board meeting? Have you visited any of the schools? Gone to a PTA meeting? Volunteered at a school? The answers to many of these questions are out there - you just need to become involved to get the answers.

Closing the academies is certainly not the right answer. Giving our students the exposure to many different pathways is a GOOD thing.

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