Patricia Wool, the superintendent for the Walnut Creek School District, e-mailed to parents API scores released last week by the California Department of Education.
And, of course, I noticed that my son’s school scored the highest of all elementaries in the Walnut Creek district on the API tests.
As Wool explains, "the report summarizes the results from spring 2008 STAR testing and becomes the baseline against which to compare the 2009 Growth API which will be released in September. API scores range from 200-1000, and an excellent school's target is 800. I'm pleased to report that Walnut Creek District is doing exceptionally well. "
Here are the results:
Walnut Creek district overall: 903
Buena Vista Elementary: 887
Indian Valley Elementary: 913
Murwood Elementary: 892
Parkmead Elementary: 927
Walnut Heights Elementary: 925
Walnut Creek Intermediate: 900
Okay, so our Walnut Creek district schools are a bit behind some of those famously high-scoring Orinda school district elementaries, according to the Department of Education.
Like Sleepy Hollow, whose kids nabbed a 974, or Del Rey, at 957. And, yeah, we’re lagging a bit behind the Moraga district, which scored a 943 overall, and Lafayette, which, district-wide, scored 914.
Some Mt. Diablo Unified district schools in Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill also scored over 900: Valle Verde (903); Walnut Acres (924); and Sequoia Elementary (923). Foothill Middle School scored a respectable 889.
As for Walnut Creek high Schools: Northgate earned a respectable 835, and Las Lomas, 844.
But wait! I have raised questions about STAR testing in a previous post. I asked: "What's their point? Do they help kids learn? Do they help schools perform better? Or, are they about $$$--for the schools, who rely on rising scores for federal funding under No Child Left Behind; or for local homeowners and realtors, who count on the top scores of their local public schools to maintain area property values?"
I know, I know. I’m presenting mixed messages about my position on these standardized tests, including these STAR tests. Okay, I’m conflicted. I have decried how teachers feel like they have to “teach to the tests,” and that it seems that so much class time is taken up preparing kids, even second graders, on how to fill in those multiple-choice "bubble" sheets. I wonder how much this has to do with real learning.
Then there are those, including my husband, who thinks standardized testing is a good thing—to make sure the schools and teachers are performing adequately. And here I am, writing about the positive API scores for my son’s school and my community's school district.
But I have to ask myself: Does the good test score my son's school received mean it is doing a good job teaching him and other kids? Maybe it does. Then again, maybe it's just a number.
Not to knock my friendly neighborhood realtors, but I’m sure there are some who are happy about these scores.