State unveils 2012 API scores

Teachers, union reach stalemate

The California Department of Education released Thursday its 2011-12 Accountability Progress Reporting, showing mostly minor fluctuations in the projected Academic Performing Index scores calculated ahead of time by the Gilroy Unified School District.

As anticipated, patterns reflect gains on state test scores for most secondary schools, mixed results for the elementary level and a slight overall district API growth from 800 to 802.

The API is a numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000, with the state benchmark sitting at 800. Statewide, the average API score for elementary, middle and high schools is 815, 792 and 752. 

The Academic Performance Index is the state’s yardstick that measures the academic performance and growth of schools. Together with the Adequate Yearly Progress scale – a federal standard that determines whether a school is meeting the federal mandate known as No Child Left Behind – the two scores (in some cases) determine state and federal funding for schools, and also sets the pace for next year’s goals and expectations.

GUSD has seen continued API growth for the last eight years, climbing from 643 to 802.

The Morgan Hill Unified School District increased nine points from last year to 789 in 2012. The Hollister school district (which includes elementary and middle schools) scored 761; Aromas-San Juan Unified scored 765.

Eliot and Rucker elementary schools in Gilroy saw significant decreases this year, coming in lower than initially anticipated. Eliot dipped from 831 in 2011 by 50 points (early projections predicted a decrease of 38 points) while Rucker – the district magnet for the Gifted and Talented Edcuation (GATE) program – slid from 809 by 29 points (instead of the projected 17 points).

“All of the elementary schools except Eliot still have APIs above two to five years ago, which demonstrates that they are still moving in the right direction,” noted GUSD Superintendent Debbie Flores. “We may have a little bump here and there in the road, but over time we’re seeing everything is going in the right direction: Upwards.”

Seeing scores fluctuate by several points is normal and doesn’t worry her, Flores said. 

“But when you start looking at 10 points or more – there were several that did drop by that amount – we are studying what happened and will be making some adjustments this year that will hopefully get them back on track and see some increases next year,” she explained. 

GUSD is currently “drilling into the data” and looking for possible explanations as to the more significant changes, such as the score drop at Eliot. The subject will be discussed in depth during the Thursday, Nov. 8 school board meeting.

“That was the biggest surprise,” said Flores, who did not want to prematurely speculate as to possible causes until she and staff had more time to study the numbers.

Other significant fluctuations from early API projections include a record-setting milestone for Gilroy’s newest charter school on IOOF Avenue, which came in even higher than expected. Now in the third grade, the group of second-grade Gilroy Prep School students who took the California Standardized Test last school year were expected to receive an API score somewhere between a 960 and 970. The students raked in a not-so-shabby 978, giving GPS the highest elementary API score in the history of GUSD. GPS is also the highest-peforming first-year charter out of 500 in the state of California since 2006. The previous high score was 957.

GPS Principal James Dent, who previous served as principal at Eliot before co-founding the new charter school, describes the final score as “a huge shock.”

Staff at GPS were “ecstatic” upon learning the official results a few days ago. Initial API calculations had produced varying scores of 976 and 969.

“It definitely qualifies us as one of the highest-performing schools in the state,” said Dent. “It’s just outstanding to see what the kids are able to do day in and day out. I wish it was happening at schools everywhere.”

Mt. Madonna also faired better than initially calculated. The alternative continuation high school on Hirasaki Court in Gilroy received a 563, which is 13 points higher than what was previously anticipated. The school is down approximately 16 points from its 2011 score. 

Districts receive raw test score data in late summer, allowing staff to estimate their schools’ projected API scores ahead of time prior to the official figures being released by the California Department of Education. Historically, GUSD’s calculations are usually off by several points (plus or minus) according to Kermit Schrock, GUSD program administrator for student assessment and data management.

Continuing a five-year trend, three GUSD schools made positive bounds this year, including Solorsano Middle School (up 21 points), Rod Kelley Elementary School (up 15 points) and El Roble Elementary School (up 16 points). 

“I would have been shocked if it didn’t go up,” El Roble Principal Scott Otteson said. “It’s a good step in the right direction, but we’re not satisfied yet.” 

He attributes the positive strides to new practices set into motion by the district’s Elementary Engagement and Achievement Initiative, which was recently adopted by all GUSD elementary schools.

Seeing Solorsano nab a score of 848 is a good feeling for Principal Maria Walker, who – along with her “outstanding staff – rose to the occasion and filled big pair of shoes. Last year was Walker’s first at the helm after she was promoted from vice principal to take the place of outgoing principal Sal Tomasello, a veteran GUSD teacher, coach and principal since 1972 who led Solorsano past the 800 API mark five years ago.

 Other GUSD schools

-Antonio Del Buono Elementary came in two points higher than projected with a 787. The school’s API decreased by 8 points from last year.

-Scores for Glenview, Las Animas, and Luigi elementary schools align closely, or are the same, as early projections. All three scored lower than last year.

-CHS came under the 800 API benchmark by a painful two points, but still improved from last year by two points. The high school, which opened in 2009 on Day Road, had an early API projection of 800 and ultimately scored 798.

-GHS came in at 745 instead of the projected 750. That’s a five-point improvement from last year.

GUSD schools belong to some 53 percent of California schools that scored at, or above the state target of 800. Only 20 percent of schools met or surpassed the API target 10 years ago.

-There are 2,995 students at GUSD categorized as English Language Learners. The API for this subgroup is 732; up one point from last year. GUSD has about 11,000 students enrolled.

Also new: School Quality Snapshot

Along with the annual API scores, the California Department of Education also unveiled its new School Quality Snapshot. This free, online accountability tool puts a wide variety of academic results and other information about a school’s performance at the fingertips of parents and the public. These reports represent a first step in how the CDE and the State Board of Education plan to utilize data to better inform the public about the progress of California schools.

Overall GUSD: 802; increased by 3
Elementary schools
Antonio Del Buono: 787; decreased by 8
El Roble: 797; increased by 16
Eliot: 781; decreased by 50
Glen View: 787; decreased by 9
Las Animas: 863; decreased by 1 (not statistically significant)
Luigi Aprea: 888; decreased by 8
Rod Kelley: 841; increased by 15
Rucker: 780; decreased by 29
Middle schools
Brownell: 815; increased by 2
Solorsano: 848; increased by 21
South Valley: 768; increased by 3
High schools
Dr. T.J. Owens Gilroy Early College Academy: 931; increased by 5
Christopher: 798; increased by 2
Gilroy: 745; increased by 5
Mt. Madonna: 563; decreased by 16
Small Schools
Gilroy Prep School: 978