Tuesday May 27 2008
Schools warm to performance scores
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
Foresthill High School administrators found that lighting up a grill was one of the best ways to ignite a passion for learning in their students. Administrators wanted to find a way to raise the school’s academic performance index this year, according to Sue Lunsford, the high school’s principal. The relatively new high school upped its performance index from 652 in 2006 to 739 in 2007. And as a reward, a Foresthill business will donate all of the hamburger meat for a celebration barbecue for students this fall. “Honestly I think we expected a pretty large improvement from the prior year for a variety of reasons,” Lunsford said. “We’re pretty pleased with our improvement, but we’re looking to put into place more programs to raise those scores even further so we’re more in line with the rest of the high school district.” The base academic performance index ratings were released last week. The index is a measure of accountability for California schools. It shows a school its growth and academic performance. The index is based on a school’s performance on the spring standardized testing and reporting program as well as other standardized tests. The index also allows schools to compare themselves to other facilities statewide. Schools strive to have an index of 800 or higher. “The spring base API report is our sports season preview,” said Gregg Ramseth, director of technology and assessment for the Placer Union High School District, in an e-mail. “It’s not unlike an ESPN preview that forecasts — with oversimplified stats — how the teams did this season (base API), how they should perform next year (growth target) and how they stack up against their competition (similar schools rank).” Foresthill’s rating was in line with several high schools in the Placer Union High School District. Del Oro High School notched the top performance with 803, which is a 21-point increase from its 2006 performance. Bob Christiansen, principal at Del Oro, said the school focuses on teaching the necessary skills so students can perform well on state tests. “It’s just one of those benchmarks that we use in evaluating how we’re doing,” Christiansen said. “We look at a number of things and the API is just one of them.” Placer and Colfax high schools had results that remained in the 700s. Placer’s rating went down one point to 760. Colfax’s score increased by nine points to 783. Rick Spears, Colfax High’s principal, said school officials are still trying to figure out what influences their index performance. “It’s hard to tell,” Spears said. “We’ve been on this roller coaster the last few years where one year it’s down a little, then it’s gradually gone up.” This year they changed the environment during STAR testing and adjusted to a new four-by-four schedule. Later this summer the school expects to see the results of the 2008 tests. Kim Barry, Placer High assistant principal, said the school is working on providing more support classes for students who need extra help in some of the tests’ subject areas. “If they’re not scoring at proficient or above, they may enroll in support classes within the school day to try to get them whatever help or skills they need to test better and be better in their academics,” Barry said. Placer High School teacher Scott Barry said his mentality toward the test has changed over the years. He said over the last four to five years, teachers have begun closely examining their results and swapping ideas on how to improve scores in their classrooms. “My job is to help educate and prepare students for the future,” Scott Barry said. “If the API will help them with their future, then that’s something I need to better educate my students on.” For some Placer High students, the test is important because of the impact the results can have on their school. Sophomore Morgan Corkrean said site staff stressed that good test scores were important to keep the school in good ranking in the state. “I don’t mind the test,” Corkrean said. “I take the test so our school gets good marks.” Sophmore Phil Balew said he focuses on doing the best he can on each test for his own personal achievement. “There are two typical groups — the ones who do their best and the ones who don’t,’” Balew said. “There’s not much you can do for the ones who don’t care.” School administrators said the index is important, but is not the final or only measure of success at their schools. Ramseth said over the summer a team of teachers will undergo professional development training related to improving student performance. The training will take place at a three-day, quality schools literacy camp. Ramseth said the camp, and other forms of teacher training, would take place with or without the performance index. “Our teachers are just diligently trying to stay focused on what’s right for our students, one kid at a time,” Ramseth said. “If we can keep that focus, the results of excessive testing that feed theses annual scores will take care of themselves.” The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at email@example.com, or post a comment at auburnjournal.com.