The Charter School of San Diego (CSSD) developed from a San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) program called the Educational Clinic Alternatives that was originally funded by SB65. This 1986 California educational reform bill was designed to reduce the dropout rate by recovering students who had been out of school for more than 45 days through the funding and development of educational options. In 1991, the Ed Clinics were storefront classrooms with the mission to re-engage students in their education. From 1991 to 1994, these nontraditional "mini schools" changed radically. A system of community partnerships and alliances supported a rapid expansion. In response to requests from the community, the delivery of service was implemented citywide. A non-traditional calendar was adopted, and flexible scheduling for students was incorporated to strengthen academic and career options. The school became known as the Student Success Programs. The concept of charter schools resulted from national and state efforts to offer students viable educational alternatives in a public school setting. Charter schools were expected to create new and more efficient ways of educating students in order to achieve better results than traditional schools. These schools were to be given a wide range of freedoms in the development of programs that were responsive to student needs. Legislation allowing charter schools in California became effective in January 1993. In April, 1993 the SDUSD Board of Education approved a proposal for development of a charter school sponsored by The Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable for Education. This approval granted the Chamber one year to locate a program consistent with their concept for change and willing to commit to a charter. After careful research and study, the Chamber of Commerce invited the staff of SDUSD Student Success Programs to consider a charter option. After many months of work on a program description, the transition of the Educational Clinic Alternatives to the Charter School of San Diego-Student Success Programs was sent before the SDUSD Board of Education and approved. On July 1, 1994, the charter was formalized. CSSD was the first school granted charter status by the SDUSD Board of Education, and it was the 28th charter school in the entire state. The school's vision was to educate students in new ways, and to serve as a prototype for changes in public education. It was designed to avoid many of the problems students face in traditional schools. It retained the storefront one-room-schoolhouse model that allowed teachers to personalize each student's education and to get to know their students, their families, and the events that affect their academic progress. Enrollment grew rapidly, as counselors, students, and parents at traditional schools discovered this educational option. In comparison to local alternative programs, CSSD had the lowest dropout rate and the highest graduation rate. In May, 1998 SDUSD Board of Education unanimously renewed the school's charter for another five years—the first charter to be renewed in San Diego County. Also in 1998, AB544 was passed and became effective January 1, 1999. This legislation further delineated the freedoms granted by the original charter law and raised the cap on the number of charter schools permitted. The school adopted business concepts to insure continuous improvement as it grows in many facets and in the number of students it serves. Staff studies all data to improve both the instructional and operational sides of the school. The academic aspect of the school is rigorous, yet is process and data driven. The operational and financial systems are quite sophisticated. Screening, hiring, and training of staff results in a highly committed and effective faculty. The school chose to become funded directly by the state, and then took over many of the functions that had been performed by the sponsoring school district.
In its first year as a charter school, CSSD selected the oral interview procedure for its initial accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The WASC team of two educators was so impressed that they awarded CSSD the maximum five-year accreditation, after which CSSD staff would be required to do the self-study.
In March, 1999, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) sent a visiting team to evaluate The Charter School of San Diego's instructional program. The accrediting commission identified "many laudable aspects" and "the quality of instruction being offered" at the school. A six-year term of accreditation was granted.
The school operation continues to become more efficient. Instructionally, ensuring that students demonstrate mastery of standards is a key focus. Operationally, fiscal responsibility is focused on assessing the most cost-effective way to provide high quality services for students. The Board of Directors opted to petition to change the legal status of CSSD from an "arm of the district" charter school to a charter school operated as a non-profit public benefits corporation (501c3). This would allow more flexibility to seek contracts with cost-effective, quality vendors as well as allow the school to purchase property.
In April 2003, the SDUSD Board of Education agreed to amend the CSSD charter to allow it to become a non-profit corporation and to approve the school's charter for another five years. Though SDUSD Board of Education is its granting agency, CSSD now has operational independence with direct funding from the State of California. This has led to the development and growth of the instructional, financial, human resources, and employee benefits departments at CSSD.
Throughout its history, CSSD has been committed to a policy of continuous improvement. This policy has lead CSSD to implement progressive strategies that are supported by current educational research. Initially, the school focused on SCANS skills, activities enabling students to achieve necessary skills in order to prepare them for the real world.
With the growth of technology in society and in the classroom, staff began to integrate technology-based activities throughout the curriculum. Curriculum and instruction was enriched with projects and assignments that require interfacing with society. With the commitment of California to standards-based education, CSSD has again modified its curriculum in order to be sure students are given opportunities to master state standards. Most recently, the faculty has focused on implementation of end-of-course examinations to measure cumulative student mastery of core standards. In every phase of growth, the focus of CSSD has been to support accountability while emphasizing positive outcomes for students. – less–ZoomInfo