The start of a new school year has all the exuberance, anticipation, and yes, even trepidation as New Year's Day.  Nearly 16,000 Aspire scholars, across 40 schools, walked through Aspire doors this fall excited for the opportunities ahead of them.

This summer, we welcomed scholars to Aspire's two newest schools - Aspire Ben Holt Middle School in Stockton, and Aspire East Academy in Memphis.  At the opening of Aspire East, 102 families high-fived teachers and staff as they brought their kindergarteners and first-graders into this brand new school.  I watched one kindergartener excitedly share her ability to count to 100 with her friend seated next to her. I delighted in her joy, and with it realized these scholars represent the college graduating class of 2029. At Aspire, College for Certain starts the first day of kindergarten.

Aspire's tremendously strong foundation enables us to constantly build, grow and evolve. Eighteen years ago, Don Shalvey joined forces with Reed Hastings and founded Aspire Public Schools, opening our first school - Aspire University Public School in Stockton (now Aspire Vincent Shalvey Academy). The work involved in opening Aspire began years before, and became our founder's vision: to open and operate small schools in low income communities and prepare students to earn a college degree. Building a system of small charter schools was the foundation for California's charter school movement, and Don's role specifically inspired the recently-released book, The Founders by Richard Whitmire. The book captures Don's persistence and dedication, along with several other early charter pioneers, and is a strong testament to the charter movement's success and growth. Don Shalvey's vision, 25 years later, has resulted in a movement that now serves almost three million students nationwide, with another million more on waiting lists hoping for a spot to open up.  

Those names on waiting lists show families' deep desire to create opportunities for their children. And because we all believe education changes the odds for our scholars, our families, and our communities, we are committed to ensuring our students are prepared to earn a college degree and the opportunities that follow. To do this, we closely look at our data and celebrate our successes while seeking to continuously improve. Recently, California released the results for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). Our California students increased their overall proficiency by an average of nine percentage points in English Language Arts (ELA), and by an average of five percentage points in Math. In Memphis, where the state canceled the state-wide standardized test, students instead took the Measures of Academic Progress Test (MAP), and met or exceeded eight of the nine MAP growth targets for our district.

We are proud of our accomplishments, but remain laser focused on improving academic and socio-emotional outcomes for our scholars. Across the country, a troubling achievement gap persists. By 8th grade, students from low income communities are scoring almost 30 points below students with higher socio-economic backgrounds. While Aspire scholars have consistently outperformed students in host districts and neighboring schools with similar demographics, we want our students to achieve at the same level as all students, regardless of demographics. We have set ambitious three-year student outcome goals focused on closing the achievement gap. In next month's newsletter, we look forward to sharing more on the key investments we believe will help us reach those goals

Happy New (School) Year to everyone, and we are grateful for your support!

Carolyn Hack
Chief Executive Officer

P.S. Take a peek inside our two new schools!

Aspire Back to School Message 2016

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