U.S. News and World Report’s recently released second annual survey of America’s Best High Schools shows Ramona Unified School District’s Mountain Valley Academy (MVA) did it again. For the second year, MVA earned bronze medal honors for the education students receive in the alternative school.
The newmagazine’s goal is to provide a clear, unbiased look at public schools and how well they are serving students in achievement level as well as preparation for college-level work.
Data was collected from more than 21,000 schools across America and of those schools only 1,900 were awarded a gold, silver, bronze or honorable mention medal. Breaking it down even further, only 17 schools (out of 100) were highlighted in San Diego County.
According to U.S. News and World Report, a high school is recognized as a top school if it: “attains performance levels that exceed statistical expectations given the school’s student body, as measured by state accountability test scores for all the school’s students in the core subjects of reading and math, achieves proficiency rates on state tests for their least advantaged student groups that exceed state averages and prepares its students for college, as measured by student participation in and performance on Advanced Placement (AP) and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) exams.”
Statistically, MVA ranked among the top 9 percent of schools and Principal Ellen Burgess is very proud of that news.
“MVA, in my opinion, is a model independent study program,” she said. “It combines the opportunity for students to learn independently, pursue their own interests and learning styles, while combining classroom experiences. It is a small school where everyone knows and supports each other, so peer pressure is a positive in the lives of our students. Everyone encourages each other to shine and celebrates all of our successes. Discipline issues that require office referral are almost nonexistent because the culture promotes strong personal values, co-operation, and true caring for each other.”
This close knit community is made possible through the non-traditional structure of MVA. In this home study program, students generally attend class twice a week. The class time is reserved for activities that require group participation such as science labs, simulations, and role playing.
The remainder of the work is done at home. Therefore, MVA students learn to manage their time and take charge of their own learning. There is also a lot of parental involvement such as meetings every six weeks with their child’s teacher to revise curriculum, which is all aligned with the California Academic Content Standards. This ongoing communication ensures that each student is carefully monitored.
When asked what sets MVA apart as a learning institution, Burgess thought best to hear from her students directly. Her first question upon visiting their class was why students came to MVA. The responses were all positive with comments like: “Teachers have time to care,” “we have great kids; everyone knows each other, not cliques, no ‘in’ or ‘out’ crowd — just the ‘crowd,’” “no one falls through the cracks; teachers are on top of each student’s achievement,” “you get a better education because your learning is not limited by others,” and even “everyone knows everyone’s mom.”