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May 13, 2010

API score alert: Which Walnut Creek schools are giving a boost to their 'hoods' housing values?

That's right! API scores have just been released by the state Department of Education.

An API--or Academic Performance Index--score represents a composite of standardized tests that  students in each California public school take. An 800 score, out of a scale of 1 to 1000, is considered excellent, and all Walnut Creek schools cleared that hurdle. 

Some principals will have more bragging rights than others, especially when asking parents to donate money to school programs. Parents and real estate agents can also study these scores, because they do use them to determine whether a certain neighborhood, based on its school's API score, is better than another. 

As you can see, most schools improved upon their scores from the previous year, but others edged down but only a little.  The first score--in red--represents the new 2009 base score; the second number represents the score for 2008.                 

Walnut Creek School District elementaries: 

  • Buena Vista: 880, 887
  • Indian Valley: 918,  913
  • Murwood: 887, 892
  • Parkmead: 938, 927
  • Walnut Heights: 935, 925
Mt. Diablo Unified elementaries: 
  • Bancroft: 903, 888
  • Eagle Peak Montessori: 873, 886
  • Valle Verde: 927, 903
  • Walnut Acres: 934, 924
Middle, intermediate schools:
  • Foothill Middle: 881, 889 (Mt. Diablo Unified)  
  • Walnut Creek Intermediate: 894, 900 (Walnut Creek School District)
High schools:
  • Las Lomas High: 858, 844 (Acalanes Union High School District)
  • Northgate: 855, 835 (Mt. Diablo Unified) 

16 comments:

Huston Meadows said...

Wow, these are great scores. Congratulations students, parents & teachers.

MisterWriter said...

If the numbers are so great then why are 25% of college students needing remedial English and Math? Like the STAR scores, the AYP is a meaningless concept if you consider that it is all based on multiple choice questions with a huge error margin. Every year the scores keep rising and yet the remedial rate keeps rising as well. Read the following report on the subject. And if you want to really see what your child knows, have them fill in the blanks rather than select from a list.
READ THIS ON AYP

Anonymous said...

We are proud of our schools, but the API is raw data, and before you connect it to housing values, you need to check the CDE similar schools scores. Home buyers want to know how Walnut Creek compares to other cities in the state with similar income and parent education levels?

Sorry to say the similar schools scores for Walnut Creek in the last 10 years have declined, except for 4 WCSD schools. The score on left shows the 2009 ranking, and the score in parentheses shows the 1999 ranking:

WCSD:
Buena Vista - 5 (8)
Indian Valley - 9 (4)
Murwood - 5 (7)
Parkmead - 10 (4)
Walnut Heights - 10 (8)

Walnut Creek Intermediate - 7 (6)

AUHSD:
Las Lomas HS - 5 (7)

MDUSD:
Bancroft - 3 (7)
Eagle Peak - 1
Valle Verde - 2 (8)
Walnut Acres - 3 (10)

Foothill Middle - 2 (8)

Northgate HS - 4 (9)

A home buyer might prefer to move to Pleasanton, where the city and school district overlap and work together; ALL Pleasanton schools are 879+ API; 10 of 14 schools are 900+ API; and since 1999, 12 of 14 schools have raised the state-wide similar schools scores.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or are some people programmed to be negative. Mister Writer's all upset that a minority of college students need remedial english and math courses. Is that new? Some of these kids come from lower income states and communities and haven't had the benefit of our schools and teachers. Then you have Anonymous at 6:20 pm. suggesting that even though our schools have worked for and achieved great scores, that doesn't mean those scores are necessarily good. I'm a Las Lomas teacher. Here's what I see:

English-Language Arts
On the 2009 CAHSEE, 97% of Las Lomas High School Grade 10 students met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts.
School97 % District98 % State79 %

Math
On the 2009 CAHSEE, 96% of Las Lomas High School Grade 10 students met or exceeded standards in Math.
School96 % District97 % State80 %

Local Scientist said...

Regardless what the negative people have said, I am still proud of the efforts by our local teachers, parents and students. Public schools mean a lot to me and I have seen their impact in many ways locally.

What possible positive influence can be made by the naysayers like Anon 6:20 and Mister Writer? There will always be ways to improve but, please, let us acknowledge good performance.

If you must have the best, as judged by artificial scoring, go ahead and pay for the high-priced spread of private schools.

I went to public schools that were lower-ranking than what we have here. I felt that my education was more than adequate to achieve my science PhD and interesting career. I would have been extremely unhappy with a private school education at the pre-university level. That would have been too "special" for me but OK for others. I loved the variety of public schools.

Best wished to our high-performing teachers, students and parents.

Anonymous said...

The "similar schools" rankings seem great at first but are actually not that useful, for two reasons:

First is that the range of API's for "similar schools" is extremely small. If you honestly think that a school at 950 vs. one at 925 will materially affect your kid's chances of getting into Stanford, more power to you I guess but that seems a stretch. In addition, a very small change in API, 5-10 points, can move a school up or down 5 ranking points in the similar schools list. That is probably within the margin of error for the reliability of the standardized tests API's are based on!

Second, "similar schools" actually have enormous variation in household income, because the Dept. of Education doesn't have real family income data, so it uses reduced cost school lunch as a proxy. So schools in eastern WC are considered "similar" to schools in Piedmont, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Rancho Palos Verdes, La Canada Flintridge, etc. Eastern WC is upper middle class, but those places are *rich*.

I believe our teachers do a great job, but for better or worse the fact remains that income is a great predictor of success in school, and so it is really no surprise that Northgate area schools score a few ticks below these places on API's. In fact to me it indicates that our schools are actually "punching above their weight," if their API's are within spitting distance of these pretty tony places. The "similar schools" ranking can't capture this because it's not based on fine grained income data.

It's *not* a given that API's will rise over time. It's an achievement that all of the "standard" elementary schools in MDUSD as well as Northgate High improved given the challenges they've faced. I'm all for high standards but let's recognize that these teachers are doing more with less -- and doing a great job.

Anonymous said...

To 6:20 PM, re. change in similar schools ranks over time --

It's tempting to make straight comparisons like this but you have to be careful. The similar schools for Walnut Heights and Valle Verde were *very* different in 1999 than in 2009. In 1999 the VV list did not contain schools in Lafayette, Orinda, Piedmot, Los Gatos/Los Altos, etc., and contained fewer from Encinitas, Palo Alto, etc. It contained more from LA Unified, San Ramon, etc.

So you have to ask: why are the API's going up but the similar schools rank going down? Is it because other "competitor" schools are getting better much faster? No, it is because the school improved enough that it got put in a different "weight class."

If a college football team goes from Division II to Division I, it loses a few more games, but do we think that's an indication that it's not playing as well?

Masterlock said...

Glad to see WCI did so well despite all the little potheads! I kid, I kid. Kind of.

Anonymous said...

I posted meaningful statistics, and I'm called negative, oh well. I guess that label also includes State Superintendent Jack O'Connell and Times reporter Theresa Harrington, since her article today quotes him saying these similar school statistics are "of vital importance."

Instead of quibbling, you might consider what our city can do to improve. Obviously the Northgate feeder pattern schools are suffering. Obviously that's because MDUSD has NO strategic plan, has NO parcel tax, and our schools are not included in WCEF. At Northgate HS, fundraising is used primarily to add classes (that is more teacher time).

The problem right now is the MDUSD bond measure on the June ballot. Instead of the $99 parcel tax that could have saved our teachers (and was defeated last year), now we must vote on Measure C which goes to year 2052 and will cost hundreds more ($60 per $100,000 value, so about $500+ for a typical Walnut Creek residence). The bond can be used for facilities only and not to save teachers.

So when you talk about our wonderful teachers, I certainly agree, and I may seem negative because I don't want any of them to be cut. Today is Black Friday because many good Northgate teachers are getting layoff notices. Thanks for listening -

6:20

Anonymous said...

Walnut Heights and Parkmead score higher because they do not have apartment kids. Apartment kids tend to come from low income low education families. Creekside feeds into Murwood. Sharene Lane feeds into Indian Valley and the area around the WC BART station feed into Buena Vista. These kids - often academically challenged and behavioral problems - place an extra burden on the schools and require a lot of help from teachers that take away from classroom instruction.

MisterWriter said...

A naysayer? If you read my blog I support our teachers and the work they do. I denounce numbers that are created under false guidelines to support political goals. There is enough available data out there to support this.

More distressing is that you consider 25% of students entering college needing a remedial program as a "minority". I call that an excess. That is one quarter - a sad reflection of the state things have come to.

Of course, I would hate to be the one responsible for devaluing your property values further. A parting thought; the goal of excellence is not to be at the top of mediocrity, but to truly rise to excellence. We have been so conditioned to accept mediocrity as the standard that we feel great when we rise to the top of that group.

LSR said...

MisterWriter

IMO, you made an excellent point differentiating between mediocrity and real excellence in education.

Kudos for your realism.

Anonymous said...

Don't leave out the CLayton Schools.

Mt. Diablo Elementary is 911!!!! Up 23 points from the year before. Higher than some Walnut Creek schools.

Anonymous said...

Last year the US Department of Education allowed states to nominate 413 schools nationally
* Nationally there were 320 schools selected
* California nominated 35 schools
* 33 California schools were selected, 11 high schools
* Las Lomas is the only Contra Costa school to be selected.
MisterWriter writes "the the goal of excellence is not to be at the top of mediocrity, but to truly rise to excellence." By all measures Las Lomas has risen to excellence. Northgate's scores are identical to Los Lomas. It's time to celebrate both of these hardworking Walnut Creek schools.

Anonymous said...

Parkmead has it's share of what you call 'apartment' kids.

The Boulevard Way/Saranap Ave. area is lined with apartments. A portion of the Creekside area gets assigned to Parkmead every year.

Anonymous said...

The differences between any on the Walnut Creek School District API scores, are statistically with in one or two points of one another. The quibbling is basically over what score achieved valedictorian status at their respective schools: 4.32 or a 4.23. Big deal. What is being lost here, is how beautifully all the schools in this area did (You too, Clayton!) Congratulations to everyone!

There is one important criterion that has not been taken into consideration, which I view as a major flaw in the API score and rankings: There is no account taken for the age of the students. One school's culture is to recommend to parents not to send their 5 year old to kindergarten, while another accepts all 5 year olds and some 4 year olds. For many schools, what is called kindergarten, is really first grade. Many of these schools may have made this switch as a means to raise their API scores, whether is it is talked about openly or not. IQ tests always use chronological age (year and months) in norm referencing the tests of children. One's grade in school has nothing to do with the evaluation. Now, it is true that Star Testing is measuring something very different from IQ, yet there are overlaps. A school whose 3rd grade students are mostly age 10 is at a distinct advantage to a school whose students are a full 12 or more months younger and this could account for 30 or 40 points on their API scores. This difference should be noted.

By the way, let's not scapegoat apartment dwellers. Many are recent immigrants who represent the "flight of the intellegencia". This is a term used to describe when the best and the brightest emigrate. Many of these apartment dwellers score at or near the top, once they have been here for a very few years. They value education more than most.

Sharon