Let it grow: School test scores rise

Chico’s public schools are showing improvement based on students’ scores in the state testing system the Legislature set up five years ago in the name of accountability.

The 2002-03 Academic Performance Index (API) Growth Report, based on the results of STAR tests administered in the spring, was released in late October.

“The No. 1 thing I take away from it is they’re making growth,” said Cindy Kampf, director of testing for the Chico Unified School District.

All but five of the district’s schools met their state-set growth targets: Chapman, Forest Ranch and Hooker Oak elementary schools and Bidwell and Chico junior highs.

Schools can score between 200 and 1,000 on the API’s numeric index; the first year it came out, 1999, some schools’ scores were as low as the 400s and low 500s. The seven schools that met their growth targets and also scored higher than 700 are eligible to apply for California Distinguished School Awards, which Kampf called “recognition for hard work.”

For those who enjoy ranking schools, the lineup is as follows for elementary schools: Marigold—814, an increase of 24 points; Shasta—812, an increase of 32 points; Sierra View—804, a decrease of 4 points; Hooker Oak—766, a decrease of 8 points; Little Chico Creek—763, an increase of 26 points; Emma Wilson—755, an increase of 17 points; Neal Down—752, an increase of 10 points; Chico Country Day School (a charter)—747, an increase of 15 points; Parkview—723, an increase of 50 points; Jay Partridge—715, an increase of 40 points; Citrus—683, an increase of 44 points; McManus—675, an increase of 51 points; Rosedale—648—an increase of 27 points; and Chapman—588, a decrease of 8 points. At the small schools, Forest Ranch scored 758, a decrease of 18 points; Cohasset—743, an increase of 50 points; and Nord—656, an increase of 30 points.

In the middle schools, Hank Marsh Junior High’s score was 793, an increase of 30 points; Bidwell Junior—721, an increase of 3 points; and Chico Junior—704, a decrease of 18 points.

Pleasant Valley High’s score was 715—an increase of 11 points. Chico High scored 695, an increase of 23.

The CUSD’s average growth was 723.

Each school’s annual “growth target” is set by the state Public Schools Accountability Act as 5 percent of the difference between the school’s base score and 800. Ethnic, gender and other subgroups must improve their scores as well.

Because of the bell curve nature of the API, half the schools statewide are destined to be labeled “underperforming,” and that’s what happened to six Chico elementary schools back in 1999, causing hurt feelings but then special funding for improvement in the form of curriculum, staff development and extra help for struggling students.

Kampf said those schools—Parkview, Partridge, Citrus, Chapman, McManus and Rosedale—are still technically underperforming, but “they’re on their way” up the charts.

She added that some schools’ scores went down because they had shot up so much the previous year, and at any rate an increase or decrease of 7 points or so “is not a lot.”

The scores showed that statewide, 90 percent of public schools showed improvement and 78 percent met their growth targets—a fact that California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell called “terrific news.”

Still, while 26 percent of the state’s elementary schools are at or above the 800 target, that’s only the case for 14 percent of middle schools and 7 percent of high schools. "We admittedly have a long way to go in realizing comparable gains from our high-school students," O’Connell stated in a press release.