Sycamore Academy Students Celebrate With Letters of Gratitude

Students of Sycamore Valley Academy (SVA), a public charter school in Visalia, celebrated National School Choice Week along with 15,000 other schools throughout the nation, last week. The kids, from kindergarten through eighth-grade wrote letters of appreciation – appreciation for having the right to choose their school.

“Parents have the right for an educational option that’s right for their children,” said Claudia Van Groningen, SVA operations director.

Applications are accepted for all grades and enrollment is chosen by a lottery for availability at each grade level. There is no mandatory grade point average, and the school is a part of the Visalia Unified School District, providing free education to its 350 students.

All students participated in a letter-writing exercise of gratitude for being able to attend their school of choice. The top letter-writers were honored with gold scarves on Friday, provided by organizers of National School Choice Week.

SVA is the only independent charter school for students, grades K-8, in Tulare County and offers an academically accelerated program including differentiated instruction and project-based learning. The school is a model for project-based learning in the county and hosts training workshops for education leaders. SVA has received the Five Star Award from California Association for the Gifted three times since its conception in 2011. This past year, this award was given to just three schools statewide for their exceptional gifted education programs.

“SVA is about preparing students for life, both in our local communityand beyond,” said Ruth Dutton, founder and principal-superintendentof SVA. “We are all responsible for our public schools, regardless ofwhether we have children in the school system. A quality education isa right for every child and every family, in every community and everystate. It’s common sense . . . no matter where you call home,effective, motivating schools with teachers that challenge ourstudents to learn is what a quality education is all about.”

SVA’s philosophy of education is rooted in a fundamental belief thatall students can learn, and that all students deserve a qualityeducational experience. By offering differentiated instruction – anorganized, yet flexible way of proactively adjusting teaching andlearning methods to accommodate each child’s learning needs andpreferences in order to achieve his or her maximum growth as a learner- SVA ensures all students are included and can be successful inlearning.

In addition to differentiated instruction, SVA’s multi-age classroomoffers students a three-part approach to enrichment that includesacademic, creative and service-learning units as well as project-basedlearning that challenges students to not only acquire knowledge andskills but also to think and solve problems about the kind ofknowledge and skills need to successfully complete a project. SVA’s instructional program is aligned with new 21st Century Skill Standards for College and Career Readiness.

As a school of choice, Sycamore Valley Academy celebrates National School Choice week to raise awareness of educational options in the community.

“Many misconceptions exist about charter schools. We are a free public school option, providing equitable access to an excellent educational experience.” Dutton said.

National School Choice Week is an annual, positive celebration of school choice that provides parents a platform to engage in their child’s educational opportunity.This national event coincides with the school’s enrollment period.SVA is currently accepting applications for grades K – 8th for its fifth year, 2016-17, now through February 17, 2016.

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