San Diego Unified wants to take a closer look at the three City Heights schools that Price Charities has poured funding into, part of a pilot program with San Diego State University and the teachers union that has given the schools added freedom and extra funding, but delivered mixed results.

But it isn’t clear exactly what San Diego Unified wants to do with the three schools. The school board did not vote on any changes to the program on Tuesday night. No specific plans were on the table.

Instead, Tim Allen, executive director of the City Heights Educational Collaborative, ran through its history and some of the changes that the collaborative has already tried to take on in an effort to improve academic achievement, such as focusing more on coursework to prepare students for college.

However, just bringing up the subject suggests that San Diego Unified wants to reexamine the longstanding pilot, first established in 1998, and see if it needs to be altered.

“I don’t want to just roll this over and then (have) it be forgotten again,” said trustee Shelia Jackson, who put the discussion of the City Heights schools on the meeting agenda.

Ideas floated at the meeting included rewriting the old agreement between San Diego Unified and the program and requiring annual reports on its progress. Here’s what I wrote about it two years ago:

Reformers hoped that fulfilling the social and emotional needs of City Heights children would free them to get down to the business of learning, in classes shaped and supported by experts at San Diego State. A decade later, if judged on standardized test scores — the standard if controversial coin of academic progress — the results of the towering investment in the City Heights Education Collaborative have been mixed, with some schools faring better than others. …

The City Heights Educational Collaborative is much like a school district within the school district, a partnership funded by Price Charities and steered by San Diego State that is tasked with overseeing teaching and instruction while San Diego Unified handles basic services such as maintenance and food services. …

As superintendents and collaborative leaders come and go, the project and its relationship with San Diego Unified have evolved. Robert Price said the teachers union and the school district have retreated since its inception, leaving many of the decisions to the university and the charity. There are few firm guidelines about which organization handles what, how much autonomy the schools are granted, and what results are expected from the three chosen schools, only a general agreement penned more than a decade ago that mentions “state standards.”

For more on the history and results of the pilot program, check out the whole story from a few years back.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter:

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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