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Escalon Charter Academy - Gateway Academy - In a Nutshell
Principally Speaking 1-10-24
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Located in six portable classrooms behind Van Allen Elementary you will find the Escalon Charter Academy. Now in its 10th year of operation the Charter’s homeschool program, Gateway Academy, has grown from 24 students to nearly 300 students during this time. Despite its growth, what Gateway “does” in that tiny cluster of portables remains somewhat unclear. I was reminded of this recently when speaking with a colleague about the program and its operations and his amazement as he began to comprehend the totality of what Gateway does. I came to the conclusion that if a fellow practitioner was this unaware, other community members were likely in the same boat. Hopefully this short piece will give you a better understanding of what Gateway actually “does” out there in those six portables.

ECA’s Gateway homeschool program operates much like a full-time Independent Study program with each student assigned to one of the school’s consulting teachers. The consulting teachers work closely with their families and students to support and monitor the student’s progress and growth. As a charter school Escalon Charter Academy (ECA) has additional flexibility in complying with state requirements, including selecting instructional materials. At Gateway, parents serve as the primary teacher for the children and have a degree of independence in selecting the instructional materials to use in their student’s instructional program.

To support each student, an educational stipend account is created for them each year - $2000 for grades TK-8 and $2400 for grades 9-12. This stipend is used for purchasing the student’s curriculum, instructional materials, school supplies and specific services to support the student’s program. All approved expenditures are deducted from each student account as requests are received from parents. Gateway orders a majority of the student curriculum in all subject areas each spring. The materials are sorted and inventoried and then provided to each family before the first day of school. Gateway also provides onsite enrichment classes, educational field trips and similar activities.

How does it work? Each consulting teacher is assigned a caseload of 11 to 14 families with 22 to 25 students. With our current enrollment Gateway has 12 consulting teachers on staff. The consulting teachers must meet with each family/student monthly at a minimum, but contact is usually far more frequent. They also aid the parent in implementing the selected curriculum and provide guidance on best teaching practices. As needs arise, the consulting teacher will provide more direct support and modifications for the parent and student. Lastly, each student must submit a detailed monthly report of material taught, days attended and must include samples of student work, all of which are reviewed and approved by the consulting teacher.

How do you know they are really learning? At the beginning of the year each student takes a proctored STAR benchmark assessment in Math and English Language Arts. This benchmark, along with student work samples, teacher observation and other measures establishes the student’s academic baseline. This process is repeated in December and again in May to ensure each student is meeting grade level standards.

What happens when they are not learning? If a student is found to be working below grade level, the consulting teacher will provide additional targeted resources, recommendations and support. They will also monitor the student’s progress on a more frequent basis using targeted assessments. If the student continues to struggle, the school follows clearly defined procedures on how to address the student’s learning needs, including providing special education services as appropriate.

How are you doing? For a range of reasons, only 75 percent of students choose to participate in the state CAASPP tests, but Gateway’s participating students consistently score above local, county and state averages in both math and ELA. Our most recent STAR benchmark results indicated that 75 percent of students were ranked proficient or higher in Reading and 52 percent were ranked proficient or higher in Math. This is an increase of 6 percent in Reading and a 4 percent in Math since the fall benchmark. In high school Gateway is proud of its 100 percent graduation rate. Many of our students also graduate with college credit through our dual enrollment program and several graduate early.

Gateway is not your traditional school, but provides a successful alternative for families that want to homeschool and our committed to the work. Hopefully this information has shed a little light on what Gateway actually does, but if more information is needed just swing by our little cluster of portables behind Van Allen and we can talk.


Principally Speaking is a monthly article, contributed by principals from Escalon Unified School District sites, throughout the school year. It is designed to update the community on school events and activities.