Lakeside’s River Valley Charter School ranked No. 1 high school in San Diego County
Lakeside’s River Valley Charter School ranked No. 1 in San Diego in the Newsweek’s “America’s Top High Schools 2015,” with a 100 percent graduation rate and a 100 percent college bound rate. This puts it at No. 9 in California and No. 94 nationally.
This is not surprising to River Valley’s Principal/CEO Travis Wall, who said it is an accumulation of great kids, great families and great teachers.
“We have good kids coming in, supporting families who are invested in their kids’ education and we have dynamic teachers with high standards who really care that the kids are succeeding,” he said.
River Valley is a hybrid-independent study school with students attending school two days a week and the other three days of the week, they are independent study. The two days students are on campus it looks and feels like a traditional school. Five different classes, five different teachers, with CIF athletics, an Associated Student Body, dress up days, dances, proms and all of the things that traditional schools have. Except River Valley is a small school, with 280 students, with 140-150 students on campus on any given day. Class sizes are small, 18 to one ratio or smaller.
“We think that the independent study is really helpful,” said Wall. “They have to be self motivated, self organized and have to have an investment in their learning. That’s one thing we tell families. If you want your kid to come to River Valley, they have to want to be here.”
Wall said River Valley started as an option for home schooled students. About 50 percent of students come from a home schooled background. Now students come from all over San Diego County, but the mast majority comes from East County.
“Our main focus is getting kids into college,” he said. “Our requirements are four years of English, four years of math, four years of history, four years of science, two years of a foreign language and a year of art. So we actually exceed the University of California requirements. In order to graduate River Valley you have to go above and beyond what the UC’s have as minimums for entry.”
River Valley has 100 percent of students going to a two-year college or four-year university. They are encouraged to take classes at Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges, and they take the classes at no cost, earning high school and college credits.
Wall said with its independent-study requirements, students are prepared for the transition of college classes. They already have that responsibility for managing their time—one of those things that most freshmen in college struggle with.
River Valley won the AP College Board District Honor Roll Award last year in the Lakeside District, out of four districts in the county. It also received a Gold Medal from US News & World Report the past two years.
“That means our English and history departments did a phenomenal job,” said Wall. “We produce excellent writers, historians, mathematicians, scientists, and we have an award-winning BotBall team. Our robotics team won three awards at the county level competitions last year and two more at the Del Mar Fair.”
Wall said everyone is welcome at River Valley. He said it is a tight knit group of kids with no clicks, drama and zero discipline.
Julie White, advanced placement language and composition (English) said the Advanced Placement program started in 2006 after she attended some professional development conferences and saw in scoring essays that their students could do well on these exams. Slowly the program has grown year by year and its students to well overall.
“Currently what they are working on now is the multiple choice type reading test where they have to be able to which simulates in college the ability to pick out details as well as decipher complex text,” she said. “We have looked at what skills are need at the college level and developed curriculum based on the AP exam to replicate those skills. This shows colleges that they have the fundamental skills that they would have obtained in a freshman composition class. It’s not really about finding the right answer, but the best possible answer. So the kids work together to weigh out what is the best possible answer.”
Senior Joelle Schauer, 17, and Associated Student Body president said she attended River Valley beginning in ninth grade.
“It has taught me time management most of all because of the independent study,” she said. “I manage my own time so I can fit in other things into my schedule besides school. I’ve done internships with a fashion designer and a wedding planner and I row for six days a week down at Mission Bay. So I have learned to adjust my time to excel in my classes and expand my extracurricular activities.”
Schauer is applying for colleges now and hopes to get into a private four-year college. Her ultimate goal is to become a doctor so she is thinking of starting majoring in biology. She said River Valley is different from any other school she has attended.
“The dynamics here with friendships are unbelievable,” she said. “There is no bullying and I don’t know of any other schools where you can really say that. Everybody is super supportive of each other so it’s a cool place and people are super unique here. The fact that we can all get along and still do our own things is amazing.”