Santa Ana’s El Sol Academy Beats the Odds

Too often we have blog posts discussing how much Santa Ana schools are failing. Well the OC Register has a terrific article in Sunday’s paper that talks about one of the bright spots in Santa Ana, which you can read HERE. El Sol Science and Arts Academy, located at 1010 N. Broadway is a shining example of success in an otherwise dismal review of Santa Ana’s public schools. Now I could do a post obsessing about people I don’t like in Santa Ana because they don’t like a buddy of mine who lives at home with their mother,  or obsessing over a certain Councilman’s support for the 4th of July or go after a Mayor and a Councilwoman who walked out of a presentation to a respected Veteran named Fred Bella. Instead I want to take this time to discuss the good things that happen in Santa Ana.

(Full disclosure, my son attends school at El Sol and will be entering 1st grade in the fall and my daughter attends the pre-school) El Sol Academy is a charter public school in the Willard neighborhood of Santa Ana, where 22% of the families there are below the poverty leve.l They offer Pre-school through 8th grade education that is shown to be top notch. The most recent API scores had them close to the Fundamental Elementary Schools and had 85.2% of their students be proficient in Math, as compared to the much praised Irvine Unified School District, which had 85.5% of their students be proficient in Math. They also have an English/Spanish dual emmersion program where all children are fluent in both languages by the 4th grade. In tomorrow’s global economy, being multi-lingual is a must, and El Sol provides a great start towards that. I wish I had that opportunity growing up, unforunately I am an English only speaker.

The article discusses some of the unique and ground breaking programs that makes the school a true part of the community by offering many different programs such as the Health Clinics. These programs are financed through private donations and grants and creates a holisitic approach to learning. It has shown to be a success.

Another program not discussed in the article is the after school programs and extra curricular activities in which the children are exposed to. Parents have the option in enrolling their children into several different programs that are art related, such as music(piano, guitar, drums, saxaphone and other instruments), dance(ballet folkloriko), Art in which they learn different drawing and painting styles, Drama and Chess. These programs have gone a long way towards making El Sol Academy what it is today. If SAUSD is looking for answers on how to get many of their schools in the neediest areas of the county back on track, they need to take a good hard look at this success story and look into applying it towards some of their more needy schools. The answer to some of the problems is right in front of their face.

Here are some interesting stats from the article:

El Sol 2010 demographics

608 students attend El Sol

578 Latino students, about 95 percent

4 African American students, about .66 percent

4 Asian students, about .66 percent

21 White students, about 3.47 percent

Student demographics:

Foreign-born*: 7.9 percent, about 43 students

From the Santa Ana area: 75.07 percent

From outside Santa Ana: 24.93 percent

*El Sol–as other public schools or publicly chartered–does not ask for a student’s legal status.

Source: El Sol Science and Arts Academy

El Sol academic scores

Academic Performance Index (API) Scores

2003: 559

2004: 589

2005: 683

2006: 686

2007: 754

2008: 791

2009: 843

Math percent proficient and above

El Sol Science and Arts Academy: 85.2 percent

Irvine Unified School District average: 85.5 percent

Academic Performance:

49 percent English-language proficient and above

85 percent are math proficient and above

843 Academic Performance Index (API)

The article touches on the growing pains El Sol Academy had, but keeps the focus on the success. In a future article, I will delve more into those growing pains and how the hacks at Santa Ana City Hall and Mike Harrah nearly stopped this success story from happening.

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