Savant Prep Scores Big for Students
By Dianne Anderson
Leading up to their grownup years, the kids at Savant Prep Academy in San Bernardino will look back on their first vital lessons on how to exercise financial restraint – like why it’s not a good idea to spend their hard-earned school dollars on a bunch of toys.
From their formative kindergarten through second grade, they conceptualize the entrepreneurial mindset, manage their budget and learn the dangers of credit card debt. They look to make savvy potential investments.
Just like the adults, if they work hard and complete their assignments on time, more money is added to their accounts. If they don’t, more money is taken away.
Jea Reese said their programs are a little like Shark Tank, except it’s for little kids.
“We’re teaching them what are needs, wants, what are expenses, what are profits. With the community we serve, we want to groom our scholars so they will know exactly what to do if they want to be an entrepreneur, and what to do with their money,” said Jea Reese, co-founder of Savant Preparatory Academy of Business.
All students and staff get a version of a debit card that holds Savant dollars with a QR Code to purchase items at the school’s store. They are also compensated for good behavior, which adds up to more money. If they do something bad, it’s deducted.
By the end of the month, they can buy something or save their dollars for something bigger. They learn how much their dollar is worth.
Apparently, the kids love it. The school is pulling some of the top test grades in the state.
Parents also are engaged. Throughout the school year, they volunteer 40 hours of their personal time. If they can’t donate time, they can donate items to the school store, or gain parent hours by attending the parent-teacher meetings.
The school was co-founded by Principal Eva Tillman; Jea Reese, Director of Operations; and Jeannette Balcazar, Director of Curriculum and Instruction.
Reese said that leveraging student creativity, business acumen and understanding money matters is a big part of the program’s success.
“[Principal] Ms. Tillman always tells them you have 99 Cent money or Neiman Marcus money. Your grades are your academic performance, and turning in homework. It’s all relative to the dollar,” Reese said.
Eva Tillman said that in general, there have been concerns across the Inland Empire and the country about the extent of learning loss through the pandemic and student proficiency. They may have missed out because of COVID, not just on the academic side, but socio-emotional.
However, her school not only held up, but it has also excelled academically compared to other schools statewide.
Before COVID-19 hit, they already had strategies in place, and continued that approach online during lockdown.
Savant Prep Academy packed their school day, even when most other schools were typically offering four hours from 8:00 a.m. to noon, even less for kindergarten with their shorter attention spans.
Her school invested more time with students by offering an extra hour of academic support. It paid off with their first batch of high test results, even though the assessment took place during the start of the pandemic season.
“We didn’t have as much learning loss as most districts. We were then able to come back to school, once we started back on campus the results just took off. Our scores were in the top of Inland Empire districts in general,” said Ms. Tillman, Principal and Co-Founder of Savant Preparatory Academy of Business.
Still, when it comes to education, she understands there are always new challenges, mostly going back to how her school supports students and parents.
The school has a strong culture of excellence.
Newcomers may be surprised, but they get acclimated to what a solid education requires. She said there is a certain structure, but also a balance of fun. Year-round, students express themselves in art, business, and they find their passion for learning.
One challenge was in making Savant Prep school scaleable and replicating the model, especially during the pandemic, finding like-minded educators with a passion for carrying out the extra work that it takes to reach the students.
“A lot of what we did as founders were birthed out of that, picking up the kids in the morning to come to school, giving up your own personal time to make sure the school is running smoothly and the kids get what they need,” she said.
The school, a free public charter, is different from traditional public schools in that it focuses on financial literacy. Their 215 student scholars are required to wear a uniform daily, and school lasts longer than traditional school days. Students attend and learn from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Many students are just coming in by word of mouth, and she said it has been equally exciting for the parents.
“Our students are getting the best of the best. It’s like we have to do things that most people are not doing, but it’s evidenced by the numbers. It’s also indoctrinating families to a new way. It can present a challenge, but it’s so rewarding,” she said.
To compare Savant test scores, see http://bit.ly/3WRIyyU