Schools now have clear-cut goals
Lake Tahoe Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis discussed the Academic Performance Index and its expected impact on LTUSD schools at Wednesday night’s school board meeting.
“I am confident that if we can continue doing what we have been doing, looking at areas of strength and weakness and focusing our attention in the right places, then we’ll continue to improve and make the kind of progress we need to meet the targets,” Davis said.
Growth targets are decided according to each school’s initial score on the Stanford Achievement Test, Ninth edition, taken last spring.
Davis explained that growth rates are five percent of the difference between the 1999 score and Gov. Davis’ desired target of 800.
“For example, if a school is at 600 right now, that from 800 is 200, so their growth target is five percent of 200, which is 10 points,” (Barbara) Davis said Wednesday afternoon.
Board members seem confident that schools can reach their improvement goals by directing more attention to areas where students scored poorly.
“I think they are capable of reaching their goal targets, but I think it’s going to be a challenge for all schools,” LTUSD Board of Education President Wendy David said. “But I think it may force us to look at specific areas.”
Despite district optimism, accomplishing target goals may be more challenging for some schools than others.
Bijou Community Elementary School scored significantly lower than other elementary schools in the district.
However, the fairness of that comparison is questionable.
“When you have schools in the state with a high second language population, you’re likely to have lower scores,” Bijou Principal Jim Watson said. “It’s important to us, with the population we have, that we compare well with schools that have a population similar to ours.”
Davis agreed that ranking Bijou with similar, or comparable schools is more reasonable.
“It’s very difficult to compare our own schools to one another,” she said. “The only fair thing would be to compare the schools to other schools like them. The fair thing to do is to ask, ‘Are they moving toward their target?'”
Bijou scored in the 40th percentile in a Similar Schools Rank.
According to Watson, ranking low on the API may inspire some people to assume Bijou does not provide quality education to its students.
“People think the better the test scores, the better the school, and I don’t believe that to be true,” Watson said. “A school with a low API isn’t a bad school.”
Watson said the language barrier many of his students struggle with makes test-taking a difficult task.
“We’ve been doing a lot this year to improve, even before the API came out,” he said. “We’re already ordering some practice test materials, so our kids can play the testing game.”
By 2001, the state hopes to implement a test specially designed to test the academic skills of English language learners.
All language issues aside, Davis expressed some concern about Meyers Elementary School. While ranked fairly high on the API, it was in the bottom 10 percentile when compared in a Similar Schools Rank.
“Schools with the exact same demographics as Meyers are out-performing us,” Davis said. “The Similar Schools rankings provide us with more useful data.”
For parents who are wondering how they can help, Davis said pushing kids to read is the key.
“Read and read and read and read,” she said. “If a child can’t read the questions, they’re not going to pass any of the sub-tests.”
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