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Oakland Schools Test Scores on the Rise, Some Drop

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday September 01, 2006

Total Academic Performance Index (API) scores for the Oakland Unified School District rose 19 points from 634 to 653 in scores released this week by the California Department of Education. 

But while there were significant gains of major minority student groups within the district—African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans—both the gains and overall performance scores for those groups lagged behind the district’s white students, a phenomenon known as the “achievement gap.” 

In addition, OUSD’s overall 653 API score this year was well below the state goal of 800, and some district schools did significantly worse. 

“The latest test results show a continued upward trend,” OUSD Interim State Administrator Kimberly Statham said in a statement sent out to district principals. “Challenging our students and ourselves to achieve excellence is working. That’s good news. Still, we all know there is much to do to improve our schools and to ensure that every student in Oakland receives the education he or she deserves.” 

In her statement, Statham noted that “more than half [of OUSD] schools raised their scores enough to meet growth targets, and said that “Oakland’s African American students and economically disadvantaged students made [the federally required] Adequate Yearly Progress [in test scores this year] in English and math.” 

“This year,” Statham said, “Oakland public schools continued to improve at a faster rate than the state as a whole,” with API scores rising 19 points in Oakland to 11 points statewide. 

Even with the faster increase, however, OUSD’s API scores trails the overall state score, 653 to 720. 

In contrast to Oakland’s 19 point jump to a 653 API score, adjoining school districts had smaller API increases but larger base scores, with San Francisco Unified rising 10 points (745 to 755), Berkeley Unified seven points (736 to 743), Emery Unified six points (665 to 671), and San Leandro one point (697 to 698). 

Meanwhile, there were mixed results for Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown’s two charter schools, the Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) and the Oakland Military Institute (OMI). While the two schools had the highest API scores for secondary schools within the district, both dropped significantly between 2005 and 2006, with OSA’s API dropping 18 points (738 down to 720) and OMI’s dropping 13 points (671 to 658) between 2005 and 2006. 

Brown has made the two charter schools one of the keystones of his two year administration as mayor of Oakland. 

API scores have become increasingly important in recent years in judging schools and school districts. In addition, the scores are used to calculate schools’ Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Under federal law, failure to meet AYP over a succession of years leads to the eventual dismantling and reorganization of the school. 

The API scores summarize school districts’ and individual schools’ performance on several state-mandated tests, including the state High School Exit Exam, and are rated on a scale of 200 to 1000. Under California law, schools are expected to show an increasing percentage API gain each year. Under the federal NCLB act, schools are only required to gain at least one point over the previous year’s AYP standing. 

Overall, white students did better on the API throughout the district, gaining 25 points from 859 to 884, with Asian American students jumping 19 (749 to 768), Latinos 17 (592 to 609), and non-Latino African Americans 16 (587 to 603). 

Native Americans and Alaskan Native OUSD student API scores rose 26 (662 to 688), Pacific Islanders rose 3 (594 to 597), and Filipinos rose 2 (729 to 731). 

Socioeconomically disadvantaged student API scores rose 16 points over the past year (611 to 627), English learners 22 points (605 to 627), and students with disabilities 1 point (473 to 474). 

Results from individual district schools were widely varying, showing continued discrepancies in the district. 

At the positive end of the scale, six district secondary schools (University Preparatory Charter Academy, Ralph Bunche, East Oakland School of the Arts, Oakland Unity High Charter, Business and Information Technology High, and Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy), three middle schools (Rudsdale Academy, Oakland Charter Academy, and Madison Middle), and seven elementary schools (Think College Now, Sobrante Park Elementary, Hawthorne Elementary, Monarch Academy, Parker Elementary, Dolores Huerta Learning Academy, and ASCEND) all had API gains this year of 50 points or more. 

At the opposite end, five district secondary schools (East Oakland Community High, Oakland School For The Arts, Oakland Military Institute, LIFE Academy, YES, Youth Empowerment), five middle schools KIPP Bridge College Preparatory, Explorer Middle, Cole Middle, Roosevelt Middle, and Frick Middle), and twenty elementary schools (Grass Valley, Sherman, Highland, Lockwood, Peralta, Lakeview, Education For Change At Cox, Cleveland, Maxwell Park, Stonehurst, Webster, Melrose, Emerson, ACORN Woodland, Joaquin Miller, Hoover, International Community, Sequoia, Redwood Heights, and Martin Luther King Jr.) not only failed to meet the 2006 API growth targets, their API scores dropped between 2005 and 2006.