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James Smith Â Compton's Lifeline Education Charter School
As a charter school serving grades 6-12, it has received a 'Great Schools Rating' and reviews from parents that help tell the story about this fabulous inner-city school.
By Francis Taylor
Sentinel Contributing Writer
There is a new charter school in town and it's the Lifeline Charter School (LCS) located in Compton. When matched up against some of the best in the state, LCS ratings demonstrate an overview of the school's test results based on a comparison of test results for all schools in the state. Some of the school's overall results defy the stereotypical inner-city school in areas such as safety and achievements. That's one of the reasons that many parents feel, "our school should be rated much higher specifically because other middle schools in the area can't ensure safety that LCS can."
The school has two locations: the LCS and Youth Employment Solution (YES) located in Watts. James Smith is the chairman of the board and he explains why and how the schools are able to maintain their high standards despite peripheral negativity. He said, "The charter school started in Compton as a result of the leadership of the parents, who got together with the teachers and as a result of their collective efforts, they came up with Lifeline Charter School about three years ago. They received the city and county support to open up a school in Compton, and now there are two."
The academic performance of the students has mushroomed far beyond some of their wildest dreams. The Academic Performance Index (API) system based on year-over-year test score performance through a two-year cycle, for the first year, was remarkable and the Growth score is for the second year. The school's API ranged between 200 and 1000, with 800 as the statewide goal for all schools.
In explaining some of the basic administrative challenges that all schools face, Smith said, "Funding for the Lifeline Charter Schools come from the State of California, Department of Education and it uses project-based teaching and is not so much driven by the public school rigidity of curriculum; it has a little more flexibility and gives the students a bit more creativity to use in their school projects. So they are not driven by test-oriented results, like other schools do. They can do projects and be graded on the outcome of the projects, and still receive positive outcomes from the results of the projects similar to A-B-C-D grade level."
Each school is assigned an API Growth target by the state, which is determined by calculating 5% of the difference between theÂ Base API and 800, or a minimum of 5-point growth. Schools with APIs at or above 800 must maintain a minimum API of 800. To encourage schools to improve achievement for all students, the state computes APIs and sets improvement targets for the different student subgroups at the school. The state reports APIs for schools that test a minimum of 85% of eligible students in any subject.
Finally, Smith believes because, "Lifeline is driven by parental systems and community resource systems, and not political systems which make it operate much more smoothly and efficiently."
Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2008-2009 California used the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program to measure student learning in grades 2 through 11 and LCS falls within that reporting paradigm.