Schools in small districts in Tracy and Mountain House shined compared with the Tracy Unified School District on the Academic Performance Index, the state’s report card for schools based on last spring’s standardized tests.
Scores from area charter schools, continuation high schools, Lammersville Elementary School District and Jefferson Elementary School District all surpassed schools in Tracy Unified, which tested 11,977 students last spring.
API scores, released by the California Department of Education on Tuesday, stem from the California’s Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999, a political effort to raise California students’ low scores in reading, writing and math.
The scores rate schools on a scoring scale from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000. The state wants every school to score at least 800, but it also sets target scores higher than the previous year for each school.
Locally, Discovery Charter, Monticello, Hirsch, Primary Charter, Traina, Wicklund, Lammersville and Hawkins schools surpassed the 800 mark.
Besides the raw score, each school is ranked on a 1-to-10 scale (with 10 being the best rank possible) statewide and with similar schools based on a formula of socioeconomic factors.
Schools in Mountain House’s Lammersville district ranked highest locally; Lammersville Elementary received a 6 ranking compared to similar schools statewide, while Wicklund Elementary was given an 8.
Superintendent Bill Lebo credits the high ranks to the district’s communication with teachers and parents.
“We make sure our curriculum is aligned to the state standards and all teaching materials are current,” he said. “We also spend a lot of time with staff, making sure they understand standards.”
Two years ago, the district began including a student’s academic progress on each report card as compared with other students in the state.
“That’s really helped with the staff and with parents to show how well their students are doing,” Lebo said.
Discovery Charter School’s 281 students scored the highest among all Tracy-area schools, with an 838. The fifth- through eighth-grade charter school, part of Tracy Learning Center, already has its goal for next year set at 900.
“We’re not afraid to look at how we can improve,” said Tracy Learning Center Executive Director Virginia Stewart. “We group students according to their needs and based on their performance so we can maximize their learning in the classroom.”
Duncan-Russell High School’s score shot up 165 points, the most improvement from 2005 to 2006 in the district.
Principal Cynthia Johannes credits the jump to the school’s small class sizes and teachers’ ability to motivate students.
The continuation high school teaches only juniors and seniors, which causes test scores to change dramatically each year, she added. “Each year our testing group changes, but I’m still happy with this.”
The school’s 23 students take the test each spring with their subject teachers. For example, the science teacher oversees students while they take the science section of the standardized section.
“I think that plays a big part,” she said. “People tend to visualize what they learned when they sit in the classroom, and students have higher expectations set by their teachers.”
Tracy High School increased its score by 13, and West High School is down by seven points from 2005.
Although the scores of 12 Tracy Unified schools rose, none of them ranked higher than a 3 compared to similar schools statewide. All except one of the 18 Tracy Unified schools that were compared are ranked among the lowest 20 percent. Thirteen of them are ranked in the lowest 10 percent.
TUSD testing director Carol Anderson-Woo said the state’s school comparisons pose a faulty assessment.
Schools are compared to 100 schools that have similar enrollment, English-learning students, class sizes and demographics. The pool of schools the district is compared to changes each year, Anderson-Woo said, since she first researched the state’s comparison process three years ago.
“Somehow, there’s a characteristic in their formula that points Tracy on the low end,” she said. “You can compare us to other schools statewide, but our concern is that our students are making improvements.”
She suggests that people consider how district schools rank among all of California’s 9,400 tested schools, which remains mostly constant year to year.
Standardized testing for next year’s API assessment begins Friday in most area schools and continues through next week.
To contact reporter Danielle MacMurchy, call 830-4221 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.