2002 test scores for GUSD yield a mixed bag of results

GILROY
– Nine of 12 district schools have improved their performances
on standardized tests, but half of Gilroy’s public schools are not
improving enough to satisfy the state.
GILROY – Nine of 12 district schools have improved their performances on standardized tests, but half of Gilroy’s public schools are not improving enough to satisfy the state.

That’s the good news, bad news summation following today’s release of the 2002 Academic Performance Index scores.

For Brownell Academy, which has not met its state-mandated improvement target two years running, the latest data could trigger intervention by the California Department of Education. The middle school’s performance is in stark contrast to that of the district’s newest elementary school, Antonio Del Buono, which upped its 2001 performance by a district-leading 60 points.

“We have already put in place a lot of changes, from class instruction to staff development,” Brownell Principal Suzanne Damm said. “We have a plan of what we need to do. I don’t know what the state is going to do.”

“From what we understand there will be just a limited number of schools statewide that will have intervention,” said Esther Corral-Carlson, the district’s director of assessment and program evaluation. “We’re expecting an announcement from the state in about a month.”

If there is a brighter side for Brownell, it’s that student performance in 2002 only dropped off by one point from last year. Its 2001 score, however, was 12 points less than its results from 2000.

The API is the cornerstone of the statewide accountability system for public schools established through the Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999. This is the third year API scores have been reported.

API scores are based on performances across several standardized tests, such as the Stanford Achievement Test Ninth Edition. They cover a wide variety of academic subjects from math and English to history and science. API scores range from 200 to 1000 points. The interim performance goal set by the state is 800.

In the Gilroy Unified School District, only Luigi Aprea has ever met that goal with scores of 831 in 2000 and 849 in 2001.

Luigi Aprea does not have a valid API score for this year due to an irregularity in testing procedure that impacted 5 percent or more of its pupils.

Luigi Aprea Principal Sergio Montenegro explained that in two classes a writing exam was restarted after teachers read directions incorrectly. Montenegro said the classes did not get any additional time to take the restarted test.

After the test was administered, the teacher reported the error to Montenegro who then informed the district and the state.

The direct impact to Luigi Aprea is that they will no longer be eligible for state money awarded to schools that meet their API growth target.

The northwest-end school may not be missing much in these budget-lean times.

“So far the state has not allocated any award money for schools,” Corral-Carlson said.

Nonetheless, the school district is considering to ask the state to review its decision.

“We’re hoping that because it was an honest mistake that got reported and didn’t give students any extra time to take the test, the state will overrule the decision,” Montenegro said.

Montenegro said the state did not release the school’s API score even to him. However, parents were mailed their individual students’ results last spring.

Last year, nine out of 12 district schools met or exceeded their expected improvement, known as “API growth targets.” Eliot Elementary School and Gilroy High School were two of the sites that met their improvement in 2001, but failed to do so this year.

The district is finding some positive spin to this year’s API report in addition to Antonio Del Buono’s marked improvement.

For the second year in a row, the district’s lowest-performing school – Las Animas Elementary – not only increased its scores, it met state improvement goals as well. In 2000, the school produced a dreary 470 API score. In 2001, it turned in a much-improved 530 score and in 2002 it scored 565.

“I am proud of the work that’s being done in the district,” said Superintendent Edwin Diaz in a written statement. “Some schools will be disappointed they did not meet their overall API target, but almost every school in the district has demonstrated significant growth in student performance over the last two years.”

In November, the district will hold a special study session with the school board to review the API scores and other standardized test results, such as those from Advanced Placement exams, in more detail.

New API growth targets for all schools will be issued by the state in January or February, 2003, the district said.

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