Escondido Charter High School: One-On-One Adult Mentoring Program « Center on Educational Governance (CEG)

Escondido Charter High School: One-On-One Adult Mentoring Program

Escondido Charter High School:
One-on-One Adulty Mentioring Programs

Escondido Charter High School

Escondido, California
Founded 1996
905 students
Grades 9-12
73% White, 17% Hispanic, 2% African-American, 2% Asian, 1% Filipino, 1% Native American, <1% Pacific Islander, 3% Other
1% English language learners
<1% special needs
1% receives subsidized meals
Teachers not part of collective bargaining unit

The campus of 12-year-old Escondido Charter High School is split into two programs: a traditional classroom program and the Independent Learning Program (ILP), in which mentoring is embedded. The goal of both programs
is to create self-directed students and good citizens.

At the time of enrollment, parents
choose whether to place their child in
the traditional program or ILP. During the 2006-2007 school year, 485 of 900 students with a range of abilities chose ILP.


Students enrolled in ILP take one course at a time and complete the majority of their studies independently. They meet with their teacher/mentor for one hour per week for academic instruction, assessment of the week’s work, and relationship building.

Each teacher is assigned to mentor 25 to 30 students – five to six per day — monitoring subjects from literature to science to art. (Students may opt to take math through the math center, as this was often a difficult subject to learn through the ILP.) In addition to academics, the teacher/mentors seek to build personal relationships with their students, discussing the students’ interests and personal lives (at the students’ initiative).

An intake coordinator matches students with teachers due to interests, goals and personality. The relationship may last from six months to four years. If the match isn’t a good fit, either party can request a change.

ILP students are only required to be on campus for their weekly mentor meeting. The program’s flexibility provided students the ability to meet commitments outside of school, such as work or caring for siblings. Some students completed their work at home; others utilized such campus facilities as the computer center, ILP center and library and played school sports. Students can also take courses for college credit at Mt. Palomar, a community college across the street.


After receiving initial funding from the executive director, state funding supported the school’s daily operations. Approximately $26 million in bonds funded the construction of the main campus, with traditional classrooms, a theater, a gymnasium, the math center, and a separate building with an office for each ILP teacher. The only facility that specifically supported the mentoring component of the program was the ILP teachers’ office arrangement, which ensured close proximity to other ILP teachers, and the peninsula-shaped desks that encouraged face-to-face interaction.
During the 2007–2008 school year, ECHS’s operating budget of approximately $6,591,927 was split into the following major expenditures: 61% for salaries and benefits; 13% for instructional supplies, of which approximately 2% was for technology and 8% was for textbooks; and 2% on conferences and professional development. According to the ILP director, ILP expenditures in 2007–2008, outside of salaries, were primarily for instructional supplies.

The combination of independent study and the traditional program at ECHS allowed flexibility in spending. Average Daily Attendance (ADA) for independent study students was based on the hours of work completed by each student, not just the single hour for the weekly meeting. The ILP was more cost effective than the traditional program, as funding was generated for work done beyond the direct services provided. The cost savings at ECHS were used to fund the math center teachers and to support various elements of the traditional program.

ECHS is led by an executive director; two program directors (ILP and traditional) directly managed their specific programs. Except for teachers and the intake coordinator, most staff members worked for both the traditional and ILP programs: four office personnel, a coordinator of testing and special education.

When staffing ECHS, the executive director purposely hired people from outside the public school system, seeking energetic people who “could really get kids excited about their subjects” and could relate to high school students. According to ECHS’s School Accountability Report Card, in 2005–2006 mid-range teachers earned $17,000 less per year than their counterparts in noncharter district schools. Veteran teachers earned up to $37,000 less annually. All professional development and mentor training is done informally among teachers.

Lessons Learned

ILP teachers need to be able to teach a range of subjects. Not all were comfortable with math, and many students were struggling with math, so the math center was created.

Several teachers expressed difficulty in building a one-on-one relationship with students who would not open up to them or who would miss their weekly meetings. Truancy and failure to complete work, after a warning and probationary period, could lead to expulsion from ILP.


ECHS’s test scores do not differentiate between the traditional and ILP programs, but the school administration’s view is that the Academic Performance Index proves the success of both programs. Since 2003, ECHS has been first or second in its district, with a similar schools ranking of 10 – in the top 10 of 100 California school with similar demographics — for the last three years. In 2006 and 2007, ECHS also exceeded the statewide API goal of 800, and had a higher graduation rate and lower student dropout rate than the district and the state.

ECHS teachers have said they strongly believe that the relationships they built with ILP students led to success: high school graduation, college enrollment, the acquisition of life skills and positive behavior changes.  All said they felt the one-on-one relationship was especially important for at-risk students. One teacher said of students who initially struggled to write complete sentences, “It is amazing how just a little bit of success can pull them along and get them moving on the path to success in education.”


Center on Educational Governance
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
3470 Trousdale Parkway
Waite Phillips Hall, Room 901
Los Angeles, CA 90089-4039

Phone: (213) 740-0697
Fax: (213) 740-4184
Staff Directory