The Salem district schools, which have been struggling, now work more closely with the charter school and, in some ways, are following the lead of the little school in Shetland Park. To try to raise MCAS scores, the Salem School Department has contracted with Achievement Network, a private company that does periodic student assessments and follow-up coaching with teachers. Salem Academy Charter School has been working with Achievement Net for years.
It is both hard and easy to measure the success of the charter school. Although it has done well in many areas and is rated highly by the state, its success, in some instances, is measured by a relatively small student sampling. For example, 100 percent of graduates were accepted to college last year — but there were only about 20 graduates.
And although the school’s MCAS results are superior to the district’s at every level, they are below the state average in some instances.
Salem Academy surely has its limitations. Due to its size, it has more limited offerings in sports and extracurricular activities than district schools. Its physical plant within Shetland Park, a business and industrial complex, is not ideal. Students go to the Boys & Girls Club for gym classes and use city fields and the Jewish Community Center in Marblehead for sports.
There are plans, however, to build a gymnasium in conjunction with Shetland Park, its landlord.
But Salem Academy prides itself on a school culture focused on learning and high standards. The school schedule is 15 days longer than most public schools, and the school day is longer — classes start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 4 p.m.
The school sends out a clear message that college is the goal.
There are college banners all over the school. At a College Day held each year, students wear college gear and eat cupcakes decorated with small pennants from the colleges attended by teachers and administrators. At other times, college T-shirts are handed out as prizes to students.