The proof is in the test scores |

The proof is in the test scores

I’d like to take this opportunity to commend The Union for its efforts to recognize our local schools. I would, however, like to clear up some misconceptions about charter schools, especially our local ones. First, I was surprised to see that you failed to include any mention of Bitney Springs High School – the school that scored the highest among all public high schools in our area – in your article about our local schools’ performance on the 2003-2004 Academic Performance Index (API) Growth Report (Nov. 2, 2004, Better and better – Test results show improvement for county schools).

And then again, more recently, you printed a “National Brief” on the Learning page, indicating how charter school students across the country are “doing no better” and by some measures are doing “worse” then their peers at regular public schools (Dec 20, 2004, Charter schools better?), but you failed to look at the details of the cited report, nor did you include recent state statistics here in California that show “exactly the opposite” for California’s charter schools.

As the saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding,” but in the case of Nevada County’s charter high school, “the proof is in the test scores.” Bitney Springs High School achieved 782 on the latest Academic Performance Index. The API is the official measure of how well schools are progressing toward the state goals – a compilation of yearly progress that includes the percentage of students passing the high school exit exam and results of standardized test scores.

Bitney’s score was the highest score of any high school in the county. Quite an accomplishment for a relatively new public high school, but one that was no surprise to students, teachers or school administrators who built the school upon a solid foundation that includes an equal mix of respect, community building, accessibility, and college-preparatory academics. While charter schools around the country may be getting mixed reviews, Bitney Springs High School has developed an academic formula that works and we’re raising the bar.

Bitney Springs keeps the class sizes small and offers a college preparatory environment that blends academics, the arts, sports and teamwork. As a result, students are able to explore their individual talents and interests and at the same time learn how to meet the challenges of a rigorous academic institution.

Courses offered in the sciences and mathematics are balanced by the study of the humanities, so that each student understands and appreciates the development of human society and culture. Bitney also offers a variety of courses in the visual and performing arts. Students can take college level courses and combine volunteer or work opportunities to round out their education.

While highly competitive team sports are not part of Bitney’s curriculum, students can join ultimate frisbee and basketball teams at the school and participate in fencing, hiking, volleyball, and softball among other PE activities. Respect, teamwork, self-motivation and curiosity are infused into the educational program so that students are well prepared for post-secondary education, careers and for life’s challenges.

Building character, camaraderie and teamwork through a shared adventure is another activity that contributes to the rich academic environment that sets Bitney apart from other schools in the area. Traditionally held at the beginning of the school year, the annual Wilderness Week trip provides unique challenges that students overcome with the help of teachers and friends. Wilderness Week not only provides students with an opportunity to get better acquainted with teachers and other students while having fun, but it also sets the tone of mutual respect and esteem that continues throughout the school year.

Although we at Bitney rarely tout how well our students are doing on standardized test, nor do we feel test scores should be viewed as the only indication of a quality school or program, it is clear our academic program is working. Students are known by teachers, respected as individuals, and encouraged to do their best.

Parents and students rely on your paper for accurate and timely information Ð especially regarding local issues. In the future, I hope The Union will include ALL schools in your articles and more fully investigate information you reprint from other sources. If you or others are interested in knowing more about Bitney’s test scores or want more information about the school, please give me a call at 477-1235, visit the campus (located just past the Nevada County Fairgrounds on McCourtney Road) or visit our Web site at


Marshall Goldberg is the Principal/Administrator at Bitney Springs High School in Grass Valley. He is a former commissioner for the Nevada County Planning Commission and is currently a member of the Board of Directors for the BriarPatch Community Market.

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