Mixed results in state tests

Though several schools saw improvement, many of the Morgan Hill
School District schools did not reach their growth goal in the
statewide Academic Performance Index (API) released last week.
Though several schools saw improvement, many of the Morgan Hill School District schools did not reach their growth goal in the statewide Academic Performance Index (API) released last week.

Five of the district’s 10 elementary schools, including the Charter School of Morgan Hill – Barrett, Burnett, Charter, Paradise Valley and P.A. Walsh – scores went down rather than improved.

Jackson Elementary does not have scores from the previous year because of an adult error reported by the school.

Four elementary schools – El Toro, Los Paseos, Nordstrom and San Martin/ Gwinn – met or exceeded their target growth goal.

The state wants schools to have a score of 800 or above; four MHSD schools are over 800 – Charter, Los Paseos, Nordstrom and Paradise Valley. El Toro and Jackson are close, with scores of 789 and 778.

The district’s two middle schools, which were still 7th – 9th grade when the CAT-6 testing was done in the spring, have scores over 700. Martin Murphy met its target growth goal of 3 with a score of 741, while Britton dropped down 8 points to a 719.

Live Oak High saw the biggest increase in the district, jumping 26 points to 706.

“Certainly we are very pleased with the scores from last year,” Live Oak Principal Nick Boden said Monday. “We are excited about what we’ve seen, from the hard work of the students and the hard work of the staff, who has been looking at what their learning, while the students have been taking the test seriously and performing well.”

Boden, who began principal this fall, said the school will not be resting on its laurels.

“We are going to be meeting with our department chairs later this week to talk about areas we want to pursue,” he said. “There will be literacy and math as always, as key areas of focus, and we want to continue to provide support for our English language learners, who showed very good progress last year.”

What he thinks it is important to see, Boden said, whether you are a new principal as he is or whether you’ve been with a school for a while, is continued growth.

“For all schools, really, if you’re not looking to match growth, certainly you are looking for sustained growth as we look at our performance,” he said. “We’d like to see every year showing progress. You may not always have huge double digit gains, but to see some gain each year is important … But it does pose a challenge once you reach a certain level, once you reach a plateau. I think we have to look at it and see another plateau waiting for us above it.”

The district’s performance was similar to statewide performance. While 62 percent of schools made progress under the 2003-04 Academic Performance Index (API), only 48 percent of California schools met their percent met their growth targets.

“While our schools continue to grow, their rate of improvement has slowed. These results mirror our test scores, which this year were mixed,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

An earlier API report, released in August, did not give subgroup information as this report does. The testing tracks subgroups, such as those with low socio-economic backgrounds, minority subgroups and populations like special ed students and English language learners.

Pat Blanar, director of curriculum and assessment for the district, said this report has the data that districts can use to find those students who need help.

“We can look at our subgroups now, and what’s interesting is that overall, the district went up 11 points with no significant drops in any subgroups,” she said. “There is this odd drop that we can’t figure out but it seems to be statewide, not just our district … Some statisticians say that after three years of an exam, oftentimes you get a dip – and that was our third year with the test.

“You have also seen huge growth in the elementaries during that time, and once you reach a level, it becomes increasingly difficult to meet your growth target.”

O’Connell said he wants schools to look at achievement gaps in schools.

“Under California’s accountability system, we want every school to improve every year, and we want every subgroup of students to be part of that improvement. It is time to focus as never before on closing the achievement gap that persists in our schools,” O’Connell said.

“The good news is that California’s accountability system is working as it was meant to. By shedding light on the achievement of all students at all schools, it helps us focus our attention on what needs to be done to improve student achievement.”

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