API: Only Half of Schools Meet Target

API: Only Half of Schools Meet Target

Eleven of Gilroy’s schools increase standardized test scores,
but five fail to meet Academic Performance Index growth target
Gilroy – For the glass-half-full crowd, here’s the good news: Eleven of Gilroy’s 12 schools increased their Academic Performance Index scores and Rucker Elementary School only dropped by one point.

Now, here’s the bad news: When minorities and the poor were factored in, only half of Gilroy’s schools met the API growth targets set by the state for 2004-2005.

“What was a little surprising and somewhat disappointing was the number of schools that didn’t meet their subgroup requirement,” said Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent Edwin Diaz. “I think what you’re seeing is it becomes difficult as you continue to improve to make sure that the kids who are acquiring a language, in addition to trying to meet the standards … to make that level of improvement … That’s a huge challenge, overcoming the disadvantage that kids have when they come from poor families.”

Unlike the 2004 API base report released in August, the API growth report, which was released Thursday, includes schoolwide results and subgroup information.

To meet the 2004-2005 growth goals, schools had to meet their 5 percent schoolwide target, plus every significant ethnic group and socioeconomically disadvantaged group had to improve by at least 80 percent of the schoolwide target.

The API, is based on the results of the Standardized Testing and Reporting program and the California High School Exit Exam, and scores can range from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000, with a statewide target of 800.

Diaz said he was disappointed to discover that even schools with significant growth failed to measure up when subgroups were factored in.

Hispanics are GUSD’s largest ethnic population and the high number of English learners is definitely a contributing factor, said Diaz. The overall API growth for Hispanics was 665, the lowest among the subgroups. Still, Hispanic students netted the largest increase with a 35-point gain.

Diaz said the district will tackle the inequities by ensuring that every student receives a high-quality education. District officials are working on programs that will address areas that need improvement, such as math, said Diaz.

Also, since the state did not release subgroup statistics for individual schools, Diaz said the district will attempt to extract that information and really focus on the students at those institutions.

During Thursday’s teleconference in Riverside, State Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell said he was impressed with the state’s overall growth, but pointed out that an “unacceptable achievement gap” still exists.

The state needs to “focus even more on the needs of the lowest-performing students until the gap closes,” he said.

When asked if it’s realistic to dream of a day when a gap between English learners and mainstream students won’t exist, O’Connell instantly answered “yes.”

The state needs to do a better job of honing in on the disadvantaged groups, he said. He also added that since the majority of English language learners are clustered in kindergarten, if the state implemented preschool for all, the disparity would become less significant.

Although O’Connell was happy to report that 68 percent of California’s schools met all of their growth targets and that 83 percent showed increases in overall academic growth, it was the 36-point improvement at the high school level that made O’Connell smile.

Since median test scores are the highest in elementary and the lowest in high school, O’Connell has made improving secondary school scores a priority.

The 36-point median gain is welcome news to state officials, but locally is causing a few worry wrinkles. Gilroy High School’s principal wasn’t happy to hear that his school only improved by 28 points.

“I thought we kept up with the state,” said Jim Maxwell.

Although he was surprised by GHS’ status, Maxwell said lower scores at the high school level is no anomaly.

“Getting high school kids to take (the STAR test) and take it seriously is difficult,” he said. “There’s no stake in it for the kids. There’s nothing in it.”

If the state could figure out a way to make standardized tests, besides the CAHSEE, count for something, Maxwell thinks the scores would naturally rise.

Still, the principal said he was impressed that 98 percent of GHS’ population showed up for the week of testing. Schools shoot for 95 percent participation, he said.

Also, since GHS mainly focused on English and language arts, math was neglected. Maxwell said there are some major changes going on in GHS’ math department that should help improve scores down the line.

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