Other Voices: All public schools should help all children learn


As we consider long-term options for Los Altos public schools, questions have been raised about which schools serve which students. I believe that every public school should help all children learn and thrive. It’s important to evaluate how all Los Altos public schools serve English-language learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities. 

Because of the Los Altos School District’s demographics, most public schools in the district, including Bullis Charter School, serve relatively few students from these groups.

The following enrollment data are averages from school years 2016-2019, from the California Department of Education.

• Bullis Charter School’s percentage of English-language learner students is higher than nearly half of the district’s schools: Blach Intermediate, 1.7%; Egan Junior High, 6%; Oak Avenue, 7.3%; Gardner Bullis, 8.4%; Bullis Charter, 9%; and Loyola, 9.1%.

• Bullis Charter School – and most district schools – serve similar percentages of socioeconomically disadvantaged students: Bullis Charter, 1.1%; Gardner Bullis, 1.5%; Oak Avenue, 1.9%; Loyola, 2.1%; Blach, 2.4%; Covington, 2.9%; and Springer, 3.1%.

• Bullis Charter School and many district schools serve similar percentages of students with disabilities: Egan, 5.8%; Bullis Charter, 6%; Almond, 6.8%; Gardner Bullis, 7.8%; and Covington, 8.4%.

Even though Bullis Charter School and other Los Altos School District public schools have fewer English-language learner and socioeconomically disadvantaged students than many neighboring districts, Bullis Charter School has worked hard to help families understand that it is a free public school, open and welcoming to all students, and to encourage more underserved families to consider the charter school. All schools in the district have a way to go – English-language learner and socioeconomically disadvantaged students’ attendance is not going to magically increase overnight.

In addition to the number of diverse students educated in the Los Altos School District, we should also consider how well these students are educated. Students from different backgrounds thrive at Bullis Charter School for many reasons, including our emphasis on personalized learning, project-based approach and engaging curriculum. The California School Dashboard allows the public to compare Bullis Charter School student group outcomes with those of other schools, including district schools. Bullis Charter School’s most recent outcomes are significantly higher than the Los Altos School District’s: English-language learner students at Bullis Charter School performed 77.9 points above the state’s English Language Arts standard and 88.8 points above the Math standard; and students with disabilities performed 40.4 points above the state’s English Language Arts standard and 46.6 points above the Math standard.

Bullis Charter School, Gardner Bullis and several other district schools do not have sufficient numbers to report socioeconomically disadvantaged student group outcomes in all years, due to California Department of Education privacy restrictions.

What we are doing at Bullis Charter School works – both for students and for the growing number of families who join our public lottery in hopes of enrolling their children next year. Every family in the Los Altos School District should be able to attend Bullis Charter School, if they desire to do so.

Bullis Charter School wants to ensure that what we’re doing works for the larger community, and especially for English-language learner and socioeconomically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities. Building on collaborations such as Stretch to Kindergarten and our work with the Santa Clara County Office of Education, Bullis Charter School is preparing several new initiatives to bring learning and professional development directly to students, schools and programs in underserved neighborhoods. As we have since our founding, Bullis Charter School will continue sharing what we learn with students, families and educators all over our community. 

Los Altos is a thriving and successful community. We are fortunate to live here. Bullis Charter School, like all Los Altos School District public schools, should do more to serve all students and families. 

Joe Hurd is chairman of the Bullis Charter School Board of Directors.

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