ESCONDIDO — The Escondido Union School District (EUSD) board unanimously rejected a five-year renewal for Epiphany Prep Charter School last week, after the state deemed the school “low performing.”
Under new legislation passed by Assembly Bill 1505, a charter school should not be renewed if it meets certain criteria. According to the district, Epiphany Prep meets Criterion 2:
“For all measurements of academic performance, the charter school has received performance levels school-wide that are the same or lower than the state average for a majority of subgroups performing statewide below the state average in each respective year received performance levels that are lower than the state average (Criterion 2).”
Epiphany Prep is challenging the decision with county and state officials in a lawsuit that claims the district and the California Department of Education is not accounting for growth in student learning.
The charter school, which opened in 2016, serves more than 750 primarily low-income students in transitional kindergarten through eighth grade.
More than half of the school’s students are English learners, at least 91% are from low-income families, 98% are Hispanic and 100% of students receive either free or reduced lunch.
“The longer students stay with us, the better they do,” said Epiphany Prep President Daniel Rivera. “It may have been unintentional, but with this law, they targeted schools of color. By taking away the growth aspect… it becomes discriminatory.”
According to Rivera, the school has a waitlist of 100 to 200 students every year, and in the past three years, Epiphany Prep has grown 237%.
The performance data for the charter school show that students did significantly improve in math and English from 2018 to 2019; however, they still didn’t meet the standards established by the new legislation.
“The intent of the new legislation, AB 1505 was to put in place rigorous accountability measures for charter schools,” said EUSD Superintendent Dr. Luis Rankins-Ibarra. “The responsibility for oversight and accountability rests on the shoulders of the chartering authority and in this case, the Escondido Union School District. Based on the law and the relevant facts, the board had a duty to utilize the accountability measurement set forth and deny the petition for a five-year renewal.”
In 2018, Epiphany Prep students scored 86 points below state standards for math, and 63 points below standards for English language arts, while students statewide scored 37 points below standards for math and 6 points below standards for English, according to a presentation to the board.
In 2019, the school’s students scored 75 points below state standards for math and 46 points below standards for English, while students statewide scored 34 points below standards for math and 2.5 points below standards for English.
However, Rivera maintains that the district and the state aren’t taking into account the significant growth that these students are achieving each year, and believes that Epiphany Prep’s students are actually outperforming the rest of the district.
Epiphany Prep’s appeal hearings with the county and the state will be in April and May.