Lilly Murphy: Schools Scoop

Love it or hate it, standardized testing is a way of life for our children. The results are undeniably one of the critical factors for admissions into high schools and universities.

Test results may not be the end all be all, but they do act as an objective filter on how well schools are performing academically. Testing also provides invaluable information on individual student assessments and progress, thereby allowing teachers to offer differentiated learning and support for each child.

The Academic Performance Index (API) is the cornerstone of California's Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999 (PSAA). The purpose of the API is to measure the academic performance and growth of schools. It is a numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000.

A school's score on the API is an indicator of a school's performance level. California's statewide goal is to strive for a score of 800 at all schools. Statewide ranks are assigned to schools. The ranks are given in deciles by school type: elementary, middle and high schools. A rank of 10 is the highest and one is the lowest. Each decile in each school type contains 10 percent of all schools of that type.

Similar schools ranks are assigned to schools with at least 100 students and API scores. The schools are compared to schools with similar characteristics. These specific characteristics include: pupil mobility, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, percentage of teachers who are fully credentialed, percentage of teachers who hold emergency credentials, percentage of pupils who are English-language learners, average class size per grade level and whether schools operate multi-track year-round educational programs. This ranking is also a decile. A rank of 10 is the highest and one is the lowest.

Richmond District schools continue to perform well above the District average as evidenced by their API scores. The API data is used to see if schools meet federal and state requirements. If a school meets participation and growth awards, it may be eligible to become a California Distinguished School or National Blue Ribbon School.

This year elementary schools are eligibile to become California Distinguished Schools. Check with your principal to see if your elementary school is eligible for this laudable award. Deadline to apply with the State Department of Education is Dec. 7.

The hard work and dedication of our schools have not gone unnoticed. School awards and recognitions continue to stack up. These schools could not excel without the priceless contributions of principals and teachers. This contribution is recognized by numerous business partners, including the Prudential California Realty's Education Foundation. Their purpose is to honor public school teachers who are providing outstanding service to their students and the community.

Congratulations to the following Richmond District teachers who received this award for 2005: Victor Tam (Alamo); Amy Brownstein Lum (Lafayette); Alexandra Dakin (Lafayette); Kristin Tavernetti (Lafayette); Susie Lee (Lafayette); and Nicola Gadaleta (Lafayette).

For more detailed school data, go to the Web sites at www.sfusd.edu or www.cde.ca.gov.

Lilly Murphy is a public school parent. For questions or comments, send her an e-mail at schoolscoop@hotmail.com.