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November 04, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, November 04, 2005

Test scores rise, but achievement gap persists Test scores rise, but achievement gap persists (November 04, 2005)

Recently released API marks provide direction for school officials

By Molly Tanenbaum

Test scores throughout Mountain View's elementary and high school districts continue to improve, but school administrators say more work is needed to narrow the achievement gap that looms throughout both districts.

The state Department of Education released results Oct. 27 for this year's Academic Performance Index (API), a score that indicates a school's overall student achievement on standardized tests in math and language arts. For 2005, overall API scores for both the Mountain View-Whisman and Mountain View-Los Altos school districts were up compared to the previous year.

The API scores -- which are based on STAR, or Standardized Testing and Reporting, tests -- range from 200 to 1,000 points, with a statewide goal of 800 for every school. The elementary school district scored 764, up 11 points from 2004. The high school district received 802, 16 points over the previous year.

"We're very proud of both of our schools because we've made good progress across the board," said Brigitte Sarraf, associate superintendent of the MV-Los Altos district.

Three schools in MV-Whisman and one in MV-Los Altos, however, did not meet their necessary growth targets for 2005. Monta Loma Elementary's API hovered at last year's number of 779, while Crittenden Middle School dropped six points, despite their overall improvement in language arts scores.

"We were a little disappointed," said Crittenden Principal Karen Robinson. "We have a new English language program that we're really excited about, but now we have to back that up with more support in math so our focus is math again this year."

Crittenden School is already working with district officials to improve math achievement through enhancing summer school programs, using mentor relationships, and examining other schools with similar student populations, according to MV-Whisman Superintendent Maurice Ghysels.

Slater Elementary did meet its overall API growth goal with a 13-point improvement, but did not see the same results within its sub-population of economically disadvantaged students.

Huff was the highest scorer in the district with an API of 950, while Bubb and Landels improved the most over last year, with 33-point and 26-point jumps, respectively. Castro, now a second year Program Improvement school, is the only school in the district with a score below 700, but its API crept up nine points to 644 this year.

Mountain View High's score not only stayed above 800 in 2005, but also increased 13 points to 819. While Los Altos High's overall API did improve eight points to a score of 799, the Hispanic/Latino subgroup's score fell seven points.

"Obviously, that saddens us but it gives us renewed energy to look into what we might do to help our Hispanic students compete and do well in school," Sarraf said.

A school's score must improve overall and in each significant ethnic/racial and socio-economically disadvantaged student population to be considered to have met its improvement goal for the year.

The high school district plans to zero in on the Los Altos High students in need of the most help, determine what programs and services work and do not work, and try to close the achievement gap between Hispanic and English-language-learning students and the rest of the school, Sarraf said.

Complete Academic Performance Index results are available at

E-mail Molly Tanenbaum at [email protected]

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