Schools can’t win for losin’

The Academic Performance Index (API) scores are in, and as usual the news is good, bad and ironic.

Most schools in the Chico Unified School District showed growth from last year, but five have been labeled “program improvement” schools: Chapman, Rosedale, McManus, Parkview and Citrus elementaries.

Chapman showed the second-highest growth in the district, going from an API of 591 in 2003 to 617 this year. But since one of the school’s subgroups—English-language learners—didn’t meet the federal threshold for adequate yearly progress (AYP), Chapman has been thrown into the fourth year of program improvement.

“It shows the discrepancy between the two accountability systems,” said Cindy Kampf, who’s in charge of testing for the CUSD. “Chapman has made tremendous growth since the base year.”

Now, Chapman must come up with a plan for “alternative governance” of the school—anything from reopening it as a charter to replacing most of the staff to contracting with an outside entity to run it. It’s a dramatic threat but one Kampf thinks the CUSD can stave off by partnering with Chico State University or taking other measures to improve scores.

In the meantime, all parents of students in program-improvement schools can ask to have their kids bused, at CUSD expense, to another campus.

Showing the most growth was the charter Chico Country Day School (CCDS), which went from 749 in 2003 to 793 this year.

Margaret Reece-Gazda, chairwoman of the CCDS Board of Directors, attributed the improvement to a closer concentration on state standards. “It’s been a slow realization of everybody that we have to embrace standards and the state testing system,” she said.

With a district-wide average API of 729, students in the CUSD outperformed their counterparts in Butte County (702) and the state (693). The state has set 800 as the target, out of a possible 1,000. Next year, it will get even harder to meet the targets, as the government is raising the threshold of what percentage of students must pass the English and math tests.

The rest of the CUSD schools scored as follows: Shasta, 836; Sierra View, 819; Marigold, 810; Forest Ranch, 786; Little Chico Creek, 769; Hooker Oak, 767; Emma Wilson, 747; Jay Partridge, 741; Cohasset, 729; Neal Dow, 720; Parkview, 718; Citrus, 677; McManus, 675; Nord, 670; Rosedale, 655; Loma Vista (a special-education campus), 590; Marsh Junior, 810; Bidwell Junior, 740; Chico Junior, 727; Pleasant Valley High, 729; Chico High, 692.

All of the junior highs and high schools showed higher scores than last year.

Kampf said that most of the scores followed predictable trends (children of less-educated parents score lower, and so on). “I think Jay Partridge would be the one that stands out as making significant growth,” she said, in part because it was one of four CUSD schools the state ordered several years ago to make changes in curriculum and teaching techniques to boost test scores.

The API scores are based on the STAR tests students took last spring. In January, the CUSD will see its "similar schools" rankings, in which local campuses are compared to others in the state with similar demographics.