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We come together as a community of people who share educational interests and goals. We nurture the physical, intellectual, social and emotional development of the child and help students achieve academic goals through multi-sensory experiences.

We value student-led learning and are committed to building a child’s sense of self by facilitating the academic and social success of each student.

Santa Barbara Charter School is a materials-based program. Our deepest and most important underlying assumption is that the most powerful learning takes place when students create their own meaning and understanding through their interactions with materials and other people. Our goal is to provide an educational program with breadth and depth for students with different learning styles and types of intelligence. It is the teacher’s job(s) to notice how each child interacts with people and things around him/her, and ask questions or provide materials and instruction that lead to the next structured step in cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development. SBCS offers both classroom-based and homebased options.

Language Arts

The SBCS Language Arts program focuses on developing a wide range of communication skills. Students are encouraged to become speakers and listeners, as well as readers and writers. They learn to communicate content, articulate opinions, and express themselves creatively. An evidence-based approach is emphasized when evaluating literature, participating in discussions, making presentations, writing essays, and doing research.


Research indicates that ongoing interaction with concrete materials, representational models, and investigative activities are the best preparation for higher mathematics. Math facts fluency develops through deep conceptual understanding, repeated practice, and experience with identifying and creating patterns. Students are encouraged, throughout their school experience to develop the spirit of inquiry and curiosity through the study of each mathematical domain.


At SBCS we know that developing skills in visual and performing arts creates joy and encourages creative expression. A solid arts education can lead to success in other disciplines. Students are taught to appreciate artistic expression for its own sake. Sometimes art is used as a vehicle for learning about other disciplines. Classroom teachers often integrate visual arts, fiber arts, crafts, music, movement, dance, and drama into the daily program.


Science at SBCS is built around the theme of “Inquiry, Interdependence, and Reasoning as a part of a Scientific Community.” Students study Physical, Life, and Earth Science. We seize teachable moments for scientific investigation. The program is both “minds-on” and “hands-on.” 

Social Studies

Social Studies at SBCS includes the study of interactions of human beings with each other as well as their environment. During the earliest years, students focus on self, family, and community, moving outward as they progress through elementary school. Literature, writing, art, and music are integrated into social studies instruction. The curriculum goes well beyond the usual content standards, and includes learning communication, conflict resolution, and problem solving skills.

Physical Education

Our Physical Education program recognizes the mind-body connection, and addresses students’ physical, emotional, and intellectual health. P.E. is a vehicle for learning movement, cooperation, teamwork, and human physiology. Students build a sense of community, confidence, and self-esteem through their participation in the program.


Computer literacy is mandatory for success in the twenty-first century so we incorporate the use of computers and tablets throughout the school. Students have the opportunity to use computers and tablets for word processing, Internet research, movie production, slide shows, graphic design and Power Point presentations. Beginning in 2014, students will have access to educational applications on tablets. Statewide testing will be done electronically.

HomeBased Education

HomeBased education is founded on the recognition that children learn all the time and everywhere. The SBCS HomeBased partnership is a program through which homeshooled children attend school at least one day per week. Many take advantage of rich elective offerings by specialists.



The Teacher’s Role

Teachers at Santa Barbara Charter School are educational leaders. Teachers determine the curriculum in line with the Common Core State Standards, Santa Barbara Charter School’s Education Plan, and the needs and interests of the students. In order to implement the curriculum, teachers provision their classrooms by purchasing educational equipment, materials, and supplies with school funds. Their jurisdiction is the administration and implementation of the Education Plan, direction of the class, and supervision of paid and volunteer staff who work with children.

During school hours, a teacher’s primary responsibility is to focus on children and attend to their academic, social, emotional and physical needs. Teachers have the responsibility and privilege of planning and implementing the program in their classes on a daily basis. Part of this charge is making sure that adults always treat children in a way that is respectful and developmentally appropriate. Teachers are responsible for ensuring the welfare of the whole class as well as striving to meet the needs of individual children as much as possible within a heterogeneous classroom.

Teachers are responsible for planning class configuration in a way that meets the educational needs of both the individual and group. Teachers assign the use of classroom space in the way that best facilitates the creation of a positive learning environment. Teachers are responsible for creating a structure within which students can explore, learn, thrive, and create. Besides teaching to traditional academic objectives, teachers are responsible for facilitating the development of problem-solving and interpersonal communication skills.

Educating children demands that teachers continue to grow and develop professionally. To this end, teachers use both formal and informal opportunities to further professional growth. Such opportunities include, but are not limited to, reading professional books and journals, participating in Teachers Council, attending in-service training, visiting other schools, attending conferences, doing collegial coaching, participating in pilot programs, and obtaining fellowships or advanced degrees.

The Parent’s Role

Parent participation and input is an essential element in the functioning of Santa Barbara Charter School. The school was started by parent initiative and thrives as a result of continuous parent involvement. The cooperative nature of this school allows parents to be essential partners in their children’s education. This partnership provides enrichment and stimulation to parents, as well as allowing them to affect the quality of their child’s education.

Parents are involved in all aspects of the school’s operation. In conjunction with the educational staff, parents help guide the school towards the realization of its mission. Parents fulfill a myriad of administrative duties, participate in work groups and the Circle of Trustees, raise funds, act as specialists, work as aides, drive for field trips, serve as class coordinators, provide office support, maintain the site, and prepare classroom materials. The physical presence of parents on campus during the school day improves the adult/child ratio. Time that parents spend with their children, helping with homework and providing enrichment, has a significant impact on the students’ education. Such participation enriches the educational program and makes the school financially viable. More importantly, parent participation sends a strong and clear message to children that education is a significant family value, making education seem relevant and important. The presence of parents within the classroom also helps to smooth the transition between home and school.

The presence of parents influences the climate and direction of the school significantly. Therefore, it is important for each parent to educate him/herself about child development, basic educational philosophy and practices, and the demands of participating in a cooperative. Such self-education is made possible by reading recommended books and articles, participating in the parent education workshops sponsored by the school, and taking classes.

The Student’s Role

Education at Santa Barbara Charter School is child-centered. Our goal is to prepare each student to be an active participant in a democratic society. Students strive and excel at Santa Barbara Charter School because the whole child is nurtured. Students are active learners and teachers. They are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning as much as is developmentally reasonable. Self-direction and self-motivation develop in children as they are given this responsibility. Continuously reflecting upon their own work facilitates the students’ understanding of themselves, and allows them to articulate their strengths, weaknesses, and needs as learners.

Students at SBCS are encouraged to build on their own strengths and pursue their own interests as they participate in a predetermined curriculum. They develop respect for themselves and others by participating in meaningful shared activities, individual conferences, and an anti-bias multicultural program.

Children learn individually and in groups. They participate in decision making whenever it is possible and appropriate. While such participation is valued and encouraged, children are also guaranteed that boundaries will be provided, so that they can learn and grow at their own pace, in a safe environment. Students develop inner self-discipline and citizenship skills.

Students are the focal point of the Santa Barbara Charter School community. They are vital group members as well as individual learners. As group members, students have responsibility for helping to create a beautiful learning environment as well as performing basic chores to maintain the classrooms and site. Students also act as peer and cross-aged tutors and mediators. Students learn conflict resolution skills in kindergarten through eighth grades. All are trained to be Peace Makers during fifth grade.

The Community’s Role

Santa Barbara Charter School is an expression of commitment to the Santa Barbara community, affirming support for public education by creating an alternative for families who want to be actively involved in a non-traditional school setting.Community service projects are an integral part of the core curriculum. Such projects help develop ethical literacy and social participation skills. These projects help students learn to recognize the dignity of the individual, understand that the ideas people profess affect their behavior, realize that concern for ethics and human rights is universal, and develop the skills for actively participating in community and political life.

Community resources are utilized for both core and enrichment activities. Frequent field trips allow children to explore the Santa Barbara area. Grants and programs which strengthen the interaction between SBCS and the community at large are sought and help vitalize the school.


Continuing research, articulation, and implementation keeps the Santa Barbara Charter School Education Plan dynamic. The Charter framework gives parents and teachers a unique opportunity to be partners in the educational program. This partnership has resulted in the creation of a non-traditional program which is developmentally based. The curriculum, methodology, and environment facilitate the development of excellent academic skills, while creativity, good decision-making, communication, independent thinking, self-esteem, and a love of learning flourish.



The conscious link that we make between assessment and instruction is largely responsible for our success. We pay careful attention to what students can do and are interested in doing. Based on our observations and interactions, we use our students’ strengths and interests to create curriculum.

Our annual assessment process includes:

  • Parent/Teacher/Child Conferences: We begin the year with a fifteen minute Initial conference to discuss the child’s strengths and stretches, as well as to address concerns and questions. We have a second conference in November to review their work and discuss next steps. Conferences allow us to discuss questions and thoughts with a child’s parent(s) and provide insight into a child and potential instructional strategies.
  • Student Led Conferences: During the Spring conference, the teacher, parents, and student gather to review the child’s work over the year and celebrate his or her accomplishments. Students select certain pieces from their portfolio to share, and teachers prepare a written narrative (Spring update). Parents are encouraged to write a response to their children after seeing their work.
  • Primary Learning Record (PLERs): A collection of observations, interviews, work samples, and teacher responses are gathered over the course of a year. Work samples are selected and described for each student in five main subject areas two to three times per year. Anecdotal notes are recorded on a daily basis. Notes are kept of the activities, actions, and/or student conversations.
  • Child Work Studies: During Teachers Council meetings, faculty occasionally engage in a process of examining a single piece of student work in depth. We discuss what we see in the work, and collaborate about the implications for future growth. Examining a student’s work in depth helps us to see every child more fully.
  • Narratives: This is a comprehensive, written description of each student as a learner. Narratives are usually between two and four pages, and describe a child’s work, actions, and conversations over time. The PLER provide the data or information upon which the narrative is based. Parents are encouraged to respond to this evaluation, and their comments become part of the student record.
  • Collections: A small sampling of between five and ten pieces of work is kept for each child evey year. As a student passes through the grades, a body of work accumulates. At the end of sixth grade, students review their work and reflect upon it, focusing on their growth over time. Each student’s comments is recorded and compiled into a book called Recollections which is distributed at sixth grade graduation.
  • Standardized Testing: In compliance with State legislation, we administer the Smarter Balance assessment in third through sixth grades.

Special needs


Santa Barbara Charter School serves a wide-range of students including those who are academically gifted as well as challenged in some ways.  The rich variety of artistic, interpersonal, and intellectual activity allows every child the opportunity for excellence in some arena.  When we are concerned about a student’s performance, we pull out the student’s collection of work that we have saved over time and are always amazed as we uncover and focus on the gifts that are apparent in the student’s work.  This process of individual assessment and intervention is equally vital when working with gifted students.  We have a number of students who are extraordinarily bright and have little to gain from a prescribed curriculum.  Our project-based approach keeps these students stimulated.

At the same time as we work to meet the needs of students who have been traditionally low-performing or high achieving, we have been particularly pleased to discover that there is no such thing as an average student.  We find than each child has unique intellectual gifts.  We value working in a setting where those gifts are obvious to everyone including the child.

In response to the needs of our students, we provide support to students who are struggling whether or not they have been formally identified.  We begin intervening long before a child fails; consequently many of the affective issues that often create obstacles for low achieving students never develop.  This approach allows a love of books and learning to remain alive in nearly all of our students.

Hopes and Aspirations


We recognize that children learn everywhere and all the time.  Our job is to notice and capitalize on this fact and provide experiences that maximize a student’s opportunities.  Our specific mission is to cultivate learning in the areas of the arts, academics, and relationships.  Our greatest hope is to continue providing opportunities for children to learn in a progressive setting.  In particular, we believe that it is vital for us to make materials-based classroom learning and home-based learning available to our students and the community.

We are a small school by design.  We believe that students thrive in environments where they are known.  Relationships are as important for academic development as they are for social and emotional development.  The beauty of being small is that our decision making process is flexible and responsive.  We can address significant concerns and implement solutions on a school-wide basis in a matter of days.  Moreover, we believe that students and teachers are safer in an intimate learning community.  Our dream is to continue providing our students with their education in a small school setting. We want the entire staff to know every student, so that children are seen and heard.  We also hope to continue nurturing the development of other small schools.

We believe that our rich variety of artistic, interpersonal, and intellectual activity affords every child the opportunity for excellence in some area.  We keep a collection of each student’s work through the grades and are constantly amazed by the content of these collections.   Historically, we have attracted students who are particularly low and high achieving.  We have had students for whom it appeared they would never learn to read or write, yet ultimately they have reached grade level or above.  As a charter school, we are mandated to improve learning opportunities for all pupils with a special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as academically low achieving.  This is an area in which we’ve been particularly successful.  We hope to continue seeing and working with students as individuals with unique educational needs and goals, and to promote this as a core value.

We are a materials-based learning program.  One of our assumptions is that students learn by interacting with materials and other people.  Through this interaction, we know that students create their own meaning and understanding.  They are curious and interested in figuring things out.  It is the teacher’s job to notice how each child interacts with materials, ask questions, and to provide materials and instruction that lead to the next step.  Our goal is to provide learning opportunities that allow students to “uncover” material rather than “cover” it.

While we have learned over time that much can be done with a limited site and minimal financial resources, we know an adequate site enhances our students’ sense of identity.  To this end, we aspire to develop an environment that is both adequate in size and aesthetically pleasing.  We are proud to say that we have been hugely successful within our resources, and continue to beautify the campus every year.

Additionally, our racial and ethnic diversity has grown from our original 18% to our present 36%, but we believe that our school community would be enriched by even greater diversity.  Therefore, we are eager to recruit and serve a much greater population of Latino students.

We believe that the conscious link that we make between assessment and instruction is largely responsible for our success.  We pay careful attention to what students can do and what they are interested in doing.  Based on our observations and interactions, we use our students’ strengths and interests to create curriculum.  Our annual assessment process includes three conferences, portfolios, and narratives. We have provided training to other educators by sponsoring conferences, offering workshops, teaching in credential programs, training student teachers, encouraging visitors, and consulting through grants.  We are committed to continuing outreach to other educators and providing training on alternative assessment and instruction.

In their wisdom, our original steering committee established a Teachers Council whose domain is curriculum, students, and classroom issues.  Teachers meet weekly to discuss curriculum, philosophy, policy, and student issues.  As the people who know the most about the instructional needs of our students, teachers make curricular and assessment decisions using crucial input from parents, as well as information about best practices in education. They also have many opportunities to learn and create.  Many serve in one or more administrative capacities. We aspire to build a staff that is self-actualized as both human beings and professionals because we know that students benefit when teachers are empowered.

SBCS teachers are devoted to the notion of shared power.  We are called upon to educate our students to live in a democracy.  This means that students must be involved in making decisions related to curriculum and classroom management. Therefore, we have created and empowered a leadership group, the Student Alliance, which is a way for students to share their thoughts and make decisions that affect the school.  It is especially important to us that education at SBCS be a process of living and participating in a democracy rather than just preparation for living and participating in a democracy.

Finally, as members of a democratic society, we deeply feel that it’s our duty to promote social and educational reform.  We want students to be successful socially, emotionally, and academically while learning in developmentally appropriate ways.  As progressive educators, we aspire to keep the voice of dissent alive and serve as a reminder that every child deserves to realize his/her potential whether or not his/her needs and accomplishments can be measured and met in a conventional manner.



Our deepest and most important underlying assumption is that students create their own meanings and understandings through their interactions with materials and other people.  They are curious and interested in figuring things out.  It is the teacher’s job to notice how each child interacts with materials, and ask questions or provide materials and instruction that lead to the next step.  We pay careful attention to what students can do and are interested in doing.  Our integrated approach allows students to explore different disciplines using a variety of media and activities.  Learning is maximized as students utilize personal strengths and cultivate individual gifts.

Our program places emphasis on learning academics through the arts, while allowing children to develop a sense of interpersonal and intrapersonal awareness as they learn communication and conflict resolution skills.  The multicultural, anti-bias curriculum helps children learn to appreciate differences as well as to understand themselves.

Santa Barbara Charter School has a flexible curriculum based on the California Common Core State Standards. We focus on uncovering rather than covering curriculum.  While learning objectives are similar to those of other local districts, our methodology is non-traditional and differs significantly from local schools.  Instruction is concrete, interactive, and experiential.  Meeting individual needs while attending to the needs of the whole group is a priority.  Children often work individually, in pairs, or in small groups.  Whole group lessons are individualized by asking questions of varying difficulty and sophistication.

  • The study of mathematics helps students develop critical thinking skills, as well as make logical arguments and valid inferences.

    Students at SBCS are introduced to mathematics as a part of everyday life.  Mathematics instruction is experiential, interactive, investigative, and concrete, with an emphasis on exploration and discovery, using hands-on learning materials, and using models to develop mathematical automaticity.

    Students are encouraged, throughout their school experience, to develop the spirit of inquiry and curiosity through the study of each mathematical domain. Over time, students focus on eleven mathematical domains including: Counting and Cardinality, Operations and Algebraic Thinking, Number and Operations in Base Ten, Measurement and Data, Geometry, Number and Operations, Fractions, Ratios and Proportional Relationships, The Number System, Expressions and Equations, Statistics and Probability, and Functions. Different domains are introduced or emphasized during different grades.

    Context for Learning Mathematics is the centerpiece of the math curriculum. Additionally, FactWise is used throughout the school to encourage math fact automaticity for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Opportunities to use mathematical skills and strategies in contexts are provided through thematic units. Upper grade students explore mathematical ideas as part of The Mathematician’s Expedition. This project-based event engages students in a format that is similar to a Science Fair.

  • In order to be successful 21st century learners, students need to be able to use technology as a tool.

    Every teacher at SBCS uses visual and multimedia technology to enhance instruction for a diverse group of learners.  This includes the use of videos, slideshows, Google docs, apps, and more.

    Students use technology in a variety of ways. For example, second and third graders take pictures of current events around school and write about them; fourth and fifth graders research a topic of interest and create a Prezi to share their knowledge with the class; fifth graders blog and reply to classmates through their blogs; students type their weekly writing, practice spelling lists, learn to keyboard, learn coding, and more.

    Thanks to the generous support of parents and community members, in 2014 the Bright Futures Fund provided each classroom with a flat screen HDTV, a MacBook Air laptop, and an Apple TV device. We currently have two full class sets of iPads, half a class set of Chromebooks, and have iPads in each classroom for daily use, since 2016.