Good news, bad news from test results in San Francisco schools 

Public schools in San Francisco have made impressive strides toward meeting the state’s proficiency goals for standardized testing, but new test results also highlight the district’s stark achievement gaps from campus to campus.

Click here to see API 2010 test results for San Francisco, San Mateo County school districts.

On Thursday, the California Department of Education released the results of its Academic Performance Index, which tests second- through 11th-grade students each spring in math, English, science and social studies.

The San Francisco Unified School District improved its 2009 performance by 16 points, and now is just nine points below the state’s goal of 800 out of 1,000 points on math and English tests. Similar improvement in next year’s results would put SFUSD into compliance with state goals.

District spokeswoman Gentle Blythe noted that more than half of The City’s public schools now rank significantly higher than schools of similar size and demographic composition, but some still need to do more.

“We also have 14 schools that are among the lowest in the state,” Blythe said in a statement. “Today’s announcement reflects the challenge that our district is grappling with — San Francisco public schools have the highest average student performance of California’s large urban districts and one of the greatest achievement gaps.”

The results of the Academic Performance Index become a base grade that schools must then improve upon. The test also allows the state to set goals for each school relative to its size and demographic makeup.

In San Francisco, an estimated 53 of 110 public schools tested have already scored at least 800 points. Clarendon Alternative Elementary School has the highest API score for elementary schools with a base of 944. Sherman Elementary is just behind with a score of 941.

A.P. Giannini was the highest of the middle schools with a base API of 874. And Lowell High School had the highest marks for ninth through  12th grade with a score of 955.

San Francisco’s high schools, however, need to make the most growth to reach the state’s benchmark. Only two of The City’s 17 public high schools have reached the 800 mark. Many  other schools, including John O’Connell and Thurgood Marshall, will need to make double-digit gains to meet adequate growth. O’Connell scored a 608 and Marshall received a 601; both are targeted to increase by 10 points.

In San Mateo County, 94 schools in 23 school districts also met or exceeded the API goal of 800. San Mateo Union High School is just under the mark at 797 and Cabrillo Unified at 780.

What the numbers mean

The Academic Performance Index, or API, is used by the state of California to measure student achievement. The scores set goals for how much a school should improve during the school year.

  • Rankings are calculated per school based on students’ collective performance on tests in English, math, history and science. Schools can score as low as 200 and as high as 1,000. The state’s target for all schools is 800.
  • Results are released twice a year. Spring results set the base standard from which schools measure how well they are improving test scores. API scores that measure growth scores are released in the fall.
  • Schools are given separate 1 to 10 rankings for how they compare to all schools and similar schools statewide. A rank of 10 is the best.
  • An “A” indicates the school was at or above the statewide target performance in 2010.
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