Napa Valley Updates

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Here is yet another reason why the attempted recall is not only divisive and mean spirited--it doesn't make sense! The schools are way better than they were 5 years ago. The Proof is in the pudding

Student test scores increase
By Jesse Duarte
Thursday, September 17, 2009

St. Helena school administrators are crediting teachers for a sharp increase in student test scores in the 2008-2009 school year.

The St. Helena Unified School District’s Academic Performance Index (API) score increased 21 points to 798. Scores are based mostly on STAR test results, and are on a scale of 200 to 1,000. The target set by the state is 800.

“It comes down to the teachers in the classroom,” said Assistant Superintendent Stan Augustine, who was the principal of the elementary school last year. “You have to use the state-adopted curriculum and address the standards, but you also have to motivate kids to learn and do well on tests.”

Augustine also credited aides and reading specialists who work with kids in small groups and individually. “That’s money well spent, and luckily we have those resources,” he said.

Primary school principal Rob Grace said the scores can also be attributed to teachers who have worked together more closely since the district introduced the International Baccalaureate program.

Test scores increased at all four schools. The biggest increase was at the high school, which jumped 37 points to 779 in the last year of Jim Zoll’s tenure as principal.

It’s hard to motivate high school students to do well on the tests, but students showed increased enthusiasm last year, said Principal Julie Synyard, adding that she would still like to see students become more proficient in math.

The high school’s API score also factors in graduation rates and the California High School Exit Exam. Synyard said 108 of the 114 members of the Class of 2009 passed the math and science portions of the exit exam, a rate of 94.7 percent. The statewide rate for seniors was 90.6 percent.

The students who didn’t pass the test were classified as English-language learners and/or special education, said Synyard. Most of them struggled with the English portion of the exam.

St. Helena Elementary School’s score of 848 was the highest in the district, and 21 points higher than the previous year. It was the fourth year in a row that the elementary school has met the state target of 800.

Robert Louis Stevenson scored exactly 800, up 11 points from last year.

“The district, the community, the parents and the kids should be very proud of themselves,” said RLS Principal Mary Allen. “This is hard to do, and a lot of districts can’t do it. It’s because we have a team effort here and we focus on the whole child.”

St. Helena Primary School’s API increased one point to 739, but the results are considered less significant because of the small sample size — only second-graders are tested.

Federal guidelines set up by the No Child Left Behind Act also evaluate schools based on the performance of subgroups like racial minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

The high school and the primary school met all their performance targets. The elementary school met 20 out of 21 targets. RLS met 19 out of 23.

The federal benchmarks show the district still has room for improvement, administrators said.

For example, RLS Principal Mary Allen said the middle school needs to focus on English-language learners, special education and math. In the last few years, the school has shaken up its math department and greatly increased the number of eighth-graders taking algebra, she said.