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A Vista-based academy is the 9th charter school in San Diego County to be dubbed a Certified Charter School by the California Charter Schools Association, going through a wringer that includes an external review and reports, according to CCSA spokesman Gary Larson.

School of Integrated Academics and Technologies has multiple campuses across California and nationwide that use computerized learning to help youth who feel disconnected from school earn their degrees. It joins five other schools in North County and three in San Diego Unified that have earned the nod from the California Charter School Association, Larson said.

Getting the nod is especially sweet for SIATech, which got a lot of unwanted attention earlier this year for having the highest dropout rate in California, according to a study by the California Dropout Research Project. Spokeswoman Linda Leigh told me in February that the study failed to recognize that SIATech is a dropout recovery program:

“We’re not an average high school,” Leigh said. “We’re a dropout recovery program. Traditional schools have failed the students who come to us. … It’s not a surprise that our dropout rate is higher than the traditional high school.”

The report cited a 165.2 percent dropout rate for SIATech — a figure that is possible because enrollment is only counted once, but dropouts are counted all year. Therefore, if students enroll midyear, then quit, they count as dropouts, but don’t count towards enrollment.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are run independently by their own boards, allowing them greater freedom in curriculum and operations. Certification is one of the ways that the charter group has sought to recognize high-performing charter schools, separating the wheat from the chaff, and encouraging schools to adopt fair and transparent policies and procedures.

EMILY ALPERT

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