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East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy
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Our Approach
EPAPA's unique program ensures students receive the education and attention they require while exposing them to activities and opportunities they otherwise would not experience. We enhance our students' learning with exposure to technology, diverse cultures, environmental education, community service and character development both inside the classroom and out. Our entire program is geared towards preparing our students for success in college and beyond. Our approach includes:

Our curriculum is structured around the academic needs of each age category and focuses on teaching all California State Standards. We start by creating Comprehensive Pacing Charts for each course and converting content area standards into learning objectives, which are then posted in each classroom and assessed systematically and regularly.

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Expanded Graduation Requirements
As college preparatory schools, Aspire Public Schools requires all students to complete a course of study consistent with California's A-G requirements (the minimum requirements to apply to California State University and University of California systems). Moreover, students must complete a minimum of 15 units of college courses while they are enrolled in high school (one benefit to taking college courses in high school is that students earn both college credit and double high school credit for each college course they pass).

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Early College High School Model
As an early college high school, we provide our students with the opportunity to take college courses while they are in high school. Students in grades 9-12 are enrolled in courses taught by professors from our educational partner, Cañada College. Depending on their personal course of study, some of our students will graduate with enough credits to earn an associates degree.

Another added benefit of taking college courses is that as Cañada enrollees, our students are entitled to all the benefits afforded members of the Cañada student body, including access to Cañada's libraries, athletic facilities, etc. For more information on the early college high school model, see Aspire's description of this cutting-edge educational approach.

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Teaching Philosophy

Student Evaluation
At the end of each trimester, all students are given report cards based on these standards. To instill in our students a sense of responsibility for one's own performance, we designed a reporting system which includes input and evaluation by the student. The first and second grading periods are accompanied by a student-led conference with parents, where each student presents his or her work for each subject area and shares individual goals for the next trimester.

Data Driven Instruction
We use standards testing to assess our students' progress and make decisions according to data. The assessments include curriculum based assessments as well as evaluations created by Aspire. Teachers also create regular assessments to measure the learning objectives they teach.

Teacher Collaboration and Professional Development
Every week, there are several opportunities for teachers to collaborate at EPAPA. We have weekly meetings for grade-level and all-staff meetings to evaluate performance data and design improvement plans. Ongoing professional development is also critical for maintaining motivated and well-prepared teachers. We employ several coaches who work with teachers to implement teaching programs and model lesson plans.

Progress Monitoring
On a bi-weekly basis, our teachers share their teaching plans and grade-level data in brainstorming sessions and create new learning objectives and short term action plans. We consistently differentiate instruction using small workshops and reading groups to increase the achievement of all students.

For each school year, we use STAR data to identify a subgroup of students who need additional support. Teachers select five focal students out of this "target" student population and create individualized plans to increase their achievement. Teachers continue to work with all students in their class while utilizing the focal student plans to improve student achievement.

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Mandatory Parent Participation
Parental involvement has been instrumental to EPAPA's success. The school was founded with the help of East Palo Alto parents — and it continues to bring quality education with their ongoing commitment. We believe that parental involvement is one of the most important factors to a successful education.

Parents are required to participate in their children's education by attending parent-teacher conferences and contributing to school events. Each EPAPA family must complete a total of 24 units for the year (this number will increase in subsequent years). All families must complete the 12 General Requirements units; they may choose how to earn the Additional Units (by combining Academic and Community Participation units).

As an incentive, any student whose family completes or exceeds the required 24 units for the year will have a bonus added to his/her Personal Scholarship Fund.

Mandatory Units
Back to School Night
1 unit
SSC Meetings (5 of 9 meetings)
5 unit
Conferences (each quarter)
4 unit
Saturday School
2 units
Total Mandatory Units Required
12 units 

Additional Units
Academic Units

  • SST / Academic Meetings
  • Classroom Attendance / Participation
  • Saturday Detention
  • College-Focused Event Attendance or Planning
1 unit
Community Participation Units

  • Workdays
  • Volunteer Hours
  • Monetary / Material Donations
  • Additional SSC Meetings
  • Parent Committees / Fundraiser Planning
1 unit
Total Additional Units Required
12 units 

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Longer School Year
EPAPA has a longer school year than most other schools. In addition to meeting more days per year than most other public and private schools, we have changed our school year calendar to better serve the academic needs of our students. Rather than taking 3 months off every summer, we integrate those breaks in throughout the year, so that the summer is only 4-6 weeks long.

Throughout the rest of the school year, we meet for 10 weeks, followed by a 2 week break in the fall, winter, and spring, and ending with a shorter summer. We have found this to be tremendously helpful in maintaining continuity and consistency in the lives and academic pursuits of students. When school starts back up at the beginning of the year, much less time is spent on review, as a result. In addition, the 2 week breaks give students and teachers an opportunity to recharge and refocus, returning to school ready for new material and accomplishments.

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Longer School Day and After School Programs
In order to best provide rigorous academic opportunities to our students, the school day at EPAPA is longer than most other public and private schools in the area. Students are in class from 8:00-4:10 everyday, followed by after school programming that is available to all.

Our after school programs are a critical part of our mission to create literate, motivated and confident individuals with a love of learning and a strong sense of respect and community. With tremendous generosity and involvement from our community partners and volunteers, we have been able to extend the school day by offering a diverse set of activities, from dance and community service, to tutoring and homework help.

While offering a fun environment for children K-11, these programs enhance classroom learning, reinforce reading proficiency, aid in the acquisition and mastery of English, and help troubled students with academic performance and behavioral issues. To help build our students' confidence, these programs include a public performance or public speaking component. As in all of our programs, we work to instill in our students trust, respect for self and others, responsibility, compassion, and a sense of community.

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Family Support Services
EPAPA is committed to finding ways for the school to support the whole family. We have come to recognize the signficance of a parent's well being, in his or her ability to invest in a child's education. There are a number of areas in which we provide support for our parents. Historically, we have offered English classes, which are returning in the fall. Also, Friday morning "Cafecito" meetings started out as a social gathering for parents, and has now grown into gathering of support and empowerment to address many different topics including ongoing issues in the community related to neighborhood activities, immigration, legal, healthcare, employment, finance, housing, and more. We are very grateful to many volunteers who have run workshops on these topics for parents.

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