Page One

School will fight state overhaul

By David Scharfenberg
Monday October 21, 2002


A California Department of Education official said Friday that Berkeley’s Rosa Parks Elementary School has a good shot at avoiding large-scale reform next year, despite triggering a federal law on Thursday that requires an overhaul of schools that repeatedly fall short on standardized tests. 

“They have a very good basis for an appeal,” said Maria Reyes of the Department of Education’s Title I Policy and Partnerships Office, which administers the federal law in California. 

The state released 2001-2002 scores for its Academic Performance Index (API) standardized testing system Thursday, and Rosa Parks performed well on the whole. The school improved its overall score more than any other school in Berkeley and far exceeded a school-specific improvement goal set by the state. 

But California requires schools like Rosa Parks to meet targets not only for the student body as a whole, but for numerically-significant racial groups and for socio-economically disadvantaged students. 

The school met growth targets for African-American and Latino students, but fell one point short in the socio-economically disadvantaged category. 

Technically, the one-point shortfall should move Rosa Parks one step ahead in the “program improvement” process laid out in President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” legislation signed in January. 


Under the law, which requires an overhaul if schools don’t make “adequate yearly progress” on standardized testing, the Berkeley Unified School District would have to implement one of six reforms at Rosa Parks next year. The options include replacing relevant staff, putting a new curriculum in place, decreasing the principal’s authority, appointing an outside expert to advise the school on its progress, extending the school year or school day or restructuring the school’s internal organization. 

But Reyes, of the Department of Education, said the law allows districts to appeal to the state and, if successful, get out of the program improvement process. She said Rosa Parks’s strong overall API performance in the 1999-2000 and 2001-2002 school years should allow the school to make a strong case. 

“My recommendation is that they take a look at this and seriously consider an appeal to exit (the program),” she said. 

Berkeley’s Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Chris Lim said Thursday that the district will pursue an appeal. 

Rosa Parks principal Shirley Herrera, who just took the helm this year, said the testing system and the negative publicity it generates are unfair. 

“I believe the state needs to re-evaluate schools like ours,” she said. “The school is on its way to doing really well.” 

Herrera said a continuous turnover in leadership has harmed the school, but touted a new system of twice-a-month meetings between teachers. 

“Teachers, as a profession, rarely have time to talk to each other,” she said. “It really makes a big difference.” 

Robin Cherin, parent of a fourth-grader at Rosa Parks, said she has been pleased with the school and argued that a shake-up under “No Child Left Behind” would be harmful. 

“I think we have a really great staff,” she said. “It would be a real disservice to shake it up to fit someone’s cookie-cutter (approach to reform).” 

The API combines test results from a nationwide test, the SAT-9, and the California Standards Test in English Language Arts, tailored to California-specific curriculum tests. Next year, the state will add other exams in math, history and science to the API. The state’s high school exit exam will also be part of the index. 

In order to meet its growth target, a school must improve its API score by 5 percent of the difference between its previous score and the state benchmark of 800. The API test is scored on a scale of 200 to1000. 

In 1999-2000 Rosa Parks improved its API score by 92 points, jumping from 522 to 614, and far exceeding the state growth target of a 14-point hike. 

In 2000-2001, Rosa Parks made no improvement, falling short of a growth target of nine additional points. In 2001-2002, as revealed Thursday, Rosa Parks upped its score by 49 points for a total of 672, far exceeding a second nine-point target. 

Another Berkeley school, Washington Elementary, met school-wide API improvement goals in 2001-2002 but, like Rosa Parks, fell short in the socio-economically disadvantaged category. 

The score should move Washington along in the program improvement process, but the school is one year behind Rosa Parks in that process and faces less dramatic reform. 

The school, unless it wins an appeal to the state, will have to provide extra tutoring services next year. Rosa Parks is required to provide those services this year. 


Contact reporter at