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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #11-16
February 14, 2011
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Recognizes Three
Schools for Offering Exemplary Independent Study

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today congratulated three California public schools selected by a joint project of the California Consortium for Independent Study (CCIS) and the California Department of Education (CDE) to receive the Exemplary Independent Study Recognition Award (EISRA).

"I am proud that California's public school system provides a variety of options so that all students can succeed," said Torlakson. "The Classical Academy High School, El Camino High School at Ventura College, and Lincoln Street Independent School challenge students with a rigorous academic program while providing flexibility and personalization through independent study. Congratulations to all the students, teachers and administrators, and the parents who are helping to make these schools models of educational excellence."

The schools were recognized at the CCIS conference in Ontario on February 11. The conference afforded independent study teachers and administrators opportunities to meet leaders from the three schools and from previous EISRA winners to learn more about their practices.

A brief description of each of the winning schools is attached.

"These three schools join a cadre of other EISRA recipients who demonstrate an impressive track record of helping students succeed academically in alternative settings designed to meet their unique needs and the full grade level academic expectations," Torlakson said. "I encourage other schools that offer independent study to learn from the successful strategies used in these schools."

To view the EISRA recipients, the population they serve, as well as their programs, practices, and student achievement results, please visit: EISRA Recipients - Independent Study. [Note: The previously linked EISRA Study is no longer active.]

The EISRA is designed to recognize excellent educational practices in schools where independent study is the primary mode of instruction. Eligible applicants must have 75 percent or more of the school's students enrolled in independent study, a statewide API rank of 6 or above, and may not be in Program Improvement. Schools also must demonstrate compliance with all legal requirements for independent study. In addition, schools must have successfully completed a rigorous, three-part review before they can be designated as an EISRA recipient.

For more information on independent study and the EISRA, please visit the CDE Independent Study Web page at Independent Study - Educational Options. For more information about the CCIS, please visit the CCIS Web site at CCIS - California Consortium for Independent Study [] External link opens in new window or tab..

Contact Information for the 2009–10 Exemplary Independent Study Recognition Award Recipients:

Classical Academy High School (9–12, Escondido)
Cameron Curry, Executive Director; 760-546-0101
Dana Moen, Principal; 760-480-9845

El Camino High School at Ventura College (9–12, Ventura)
Kelsie Sims-Schnieder, Principal [Note: Cheryl Burns is the current Principal; 805-289-7955,]

Lincoln Street Independent (K–8, Red Bluff)
Larry Champion, Principal; [Note: Richard Duvarney is the current Principal; 530-527-5811,]


Classical Academy High School (9–12, San Diego County) is a direct-funded charter school authorized by the Escondido Union School District. The school’s Academic Performance Index (API) score rose 27 points over the past year to 837. (The API is the state's accountability model.) This school offers students a choice of program designs. Students who choose the studio program meet face-to-face with their teacher four days per week in addition to working independently at home or taking advantage of Learning Labs for tutoring. Students participating in the full-time independent study option meet weekly with the teachers and complete assignments at home. Students receive support in attaining grade-level standards and above through a strong cohort system, required community service, parent education and involvement, tutoring, and a low teacher-student ratio (18 to 1). All teachers participate in weekly collaborative conversations focused on assessment design and careful analysis of student achievement. The school features project-based assignments, arts integration, college and career preparation, and extracurricular engagement.

El Camino High School at Ventura College (9–12, Ventura County) is a Middle College Academy in the Ventura Unified School District. The school’s API rose 38 points in the last year to 821, in addition to attaining a 100 percent participation rate in testing and yearly increases in California Standards Test scores. In concert with the school’s focus on college preparation, students at El Camino High are required to take at least one class per semester concurrently at Ventura Community College. The school has a thriving Renaissance program—part of the nationally recognized academic awards and incentive program. The school boasts a thriving culture, high graduation rates, and strong student leadership program. There is also a well-established system for academic support, starting with a Fundamentals Class that is required for all new students and teaches them time-management and study skills. In addition, all students receive calendars and pacing guides to help them keep up with their assignments. Teachers participate in weekly meetings to discuss student progress and plan interventions as needed.

Lincoln Street Independent School (K–8, Tehama County) is a small school that is housed at the County Office of Education. With only three full-time teachers, the school receives enthusiastic support from parents, students, and the County Office of Education, which houses the school. Due to the small student population, the school experiences yearly changes in its API, and in fact, lost 24 points in the last year, moving from 870 to 846. In spite of that, the school boasts high achievement for its students, 53 percent of whom are on free or reduced-price lunches, indicating they have come from a low-socioeconomic background. To maintain the high student achievement, the school offers a strong parent education program, both on the Web, where lessons and curriculum support are available, and via parent resource booklets that map the California Standards for each grade and course. The members of the school staff are active in a Small Schools Consortium, which aids them to provide many resources (for students and for teacher professional development) that would otherwise be unaffordable. A strong focus on the California Standards and use of regular embedded assessments help teachers to keep their students on track for achieving grade-level proficiency.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

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