Test scores used by the government to judge how well schools teach students dipped at the New Jerusalem Elementary School and at its elementary charter school, while scores at its charter high school soared.
District Superintendent David Thoming chalked up the results of the Academic Performance Index test at the elementary school to “a few students who flat-out didn’t try.”
The district, which has roughly 680 students, came to its conclusion by looking at the test results of students who had done well in the past but did poorly in the last round of tests. Thoming also said it’s tough to make eighth-graders care about test results when they’re moving on to high school.
“But that’s our fault for not making sure they’re not buying in,” he said.
Getting students to “buy in” to the test is something many schools in Tracy have trouble with. There’s no penalty for students who do poorly on the test born from the federal No Child Left Behind Act, but there can be consequences for the schools.
The state requires that schools score an 800 out of 1,000 points. At New Jerusalem Elementary, the school received a score of 760, five points below last year’s score. At New Jerusalem Charter, where students are home-schooled, the score fell from 765 in 2005 to 754 in 2006. But at Delta Charter High School, where kids take classes online, the scores rose from 506 to 679.
At the elementary school, test scores fell in 2004, rose in 2005, but fell again this year.
Poor scores often cause the state to keep a watchful eye on schools, and if scores are bad enough for long enough the state can take over a school and run it, though that’s never happened in Tracy.
Compared with 100 other schools of similar size and demographics, New Jerusalem Elementary scores were above average, statistics show.
To raise scores next year, Thoming said the elementary school will add remedial math classes, focus on teaching things that will be on the test, and to try to get students to “buy into the idea that it’s important for them to test well.”
At the charter high school, the district was able to teach students who needed extra help in small groups. It’ll try to duplicate the success of Delta Charter at New Jerusalem Charter, where there are fewer students on campus on any given day, but where Thoming said student turnover makes it difficult to raise scores.
All three schools made what the federal government calls “adequate yearly progress” and avoided federal penalties.