Scores mixed for SFUSD schools 

Although most San Francisco public schools fared better on last year’s state assessments, many others continue to struggle — some taking major nosedives, according to data released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.

Overall, students at 78 of San Francisco’s 116 public schools improved their scores on last spring’s standardized tests. Of those sites, 27 performed so well they bumped up their schools’ positions in the statewide-ranking system.

Each year, California schools are required to increase students’ scores on a variety of standardized tests given to second- through 11th-graders in the spring. The progress is tracked through the Academic Performance Index, a scale of 200 to 1,000 with a performance target of 800. Schools face sanctions, such as loss of local control and curriculum and staff overhaul, if they fail to make adequate progress.

Besides the API, schools are also ranked on a one-to-10 scale to make it easier to compare schools statewide.

According to data released by the state Tuesday, six San Francisco public schools — Alamo, Alice Fong Yu, Clarendon, Ulloa, and West Portal elementary schools and Lowell High School — are now considered in the top 10 percent of all California schools.

Another 22 sites, however, performed so poorly they slipped in the state-ranking system. Eighteen of those sites are now in the bottom 10 percent of all state schools.

The San Francisco Unified School District is attributing the decline in some high schools’ ratings in part to students’ science scores, which the state factored into the API equation for the first time in 2006.

"There were no surprises to me," said Norman Yee, vice president of the SFUSD’s Board of Education, after glancing at the data. "It looks like the same [schools] that need a lot of work. Scores don’t tell you everything."

The scores, however, are widely used by parents in The City when deciding where to send their children to school. Officials caution parents against using the ratings in such a way because they’re only snapshots of what schools have to offer.

Twenty-nine San Francisco schools have already met the 800 mark, according to the data. Their only real job is to remain above the mark.

Five more sites — Gordon J. Lau, Longfellow, Frank McCoppin, Jean Parker and Sheridan elementary schools — joined the ranks by surpassing the benchmark in 2006

"We’re moving in the right direction," SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said. "Our district API is solid and has been improving every year."

With an API of 942, Alice Fong Yu Elementary School is the district’s top performing campus. It gained 19 points in 2006.

The standouts, however, are KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy, gaining 138 points to 836, and Bret Harte Elementary School, gaining 82 points to 730.

At the low end, John A. O’Connell and Mission high schools both scored APIs of 553.

Newcomer High School took the most dramatic drop of all SFUSD schools, moving from 418 to 291, losing 127 points. Newcomer High is a small school that offers a transitional program for high school-aged immigrants who are learning English for the first time. The state expects the school to gain 25 points when students are tested this spring.

The Cross Cultural Environmental Leadership Academy and the John A. O’Connell High School both dropped 78 points last year.

At the statewide level, the SFUSD tied with South San Francisco and San Jose for fourth among all Bay Area school districts, falling behind only Palo Alto, Pleasanton and Alameda.

KIPP Academy now a powerhouse

More teachers, rigorous coursework and longer school days are just a few of the fundamentals KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy Principal Lydia Glassie attributes to her students’ major gains on last year’s state standardized tests.

The school, a charter that serves 245 fifth- through eighth-graders in The City’s Western Addition, improved more than any other San Francisco Unified school last year, according to data released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.

The academy’s Academic Performance Index score increased from 698 to 836, growing by 138 points. On average, most schools improved five to 30 points.

The API is a scale of 200 to 1,000, with the state’s performance target resting at 800. The scores are based on results from tests given to second- through 11th-graders each spring.

While KIPP Bay Academy is not San Francisco’s highest-performing school, it has quickly transformed from a fledgling site with one class of students to a powerhouse campus with a high college-bound rate and a waiting list for sixth grade.

Charter publicly funded schools typically sponsored by local districts. They are not subject to state mandates like other public schools.

We’ve done a really good job at balancing an environment that is very caring and loving," said Glassie, who founded the school four years ago. "But there are no excuses for not doing work up to your potential.

"If a student says ‘I didn’t finish my homework’ for whatever reason, there’s no excuse for that. And that’s regardless of the things we all face on a daily basis because we’re all working to get into great high schools and great colleges," she added.

The KIPP Bay Academy school day is from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., about three hours longer than a traditional one.

Nearly 75 percent of KIPP’s students are African-American or Hispanic. Most come from low-income families living in The City’s Mission and Western Addition districts and qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

Last year, Glassie said the school added five teachers, which has helped students receive individual attention. There are about 26 to 27 teachers per student, which is higher than what the state considers for a small class. It has more to do with commitment on the teachers’ and students’ parts, Glassie said.

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