Written by: Cooper Aspegren
The California Department of Education (CDE) announced on Oct. 17 that Gunn’s Academic Performance Index (API) increased to 920 in 2012, a ten-point growth from its base score of 910 in 2011.
The CDE uses API to determine the academic standing of a district as well as each of its individual schools. The CDE calculated Gunn’s API score using student results from the California Standards Test (CST) and the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). “API scores are used as an internal evaluation measure,” Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) research and evaluation coordinator Diana Wilmot said. “We use it to judge whether or not our programs are working.”
The growth marks Gunn’s highest API increase since 2009. “It’s statistically significant that it went up by double digits,” Principal Katya Villalobos said. Administration officials expressed significant delight at the API increase of minority subgroups. “What that tells me is that we are reaching those students in academic and in all capacities of the school,” Villalobos said. “That is why we are increasing.”
Administration officials downplayed efforts to increase API test scores through coaxing better student performances in CST exams, a strategy they say is used by schools in other districts to raise their API scores. “We don’t overstress the Standardized Testing and Reporting Test,” Assistant Principal of Guidance Tom Jacoubowsky said. “In some ways I kind of wish we looked more at the data we get from it.” Administration officials have used test results to find a correlation between English and Language Arts scores and success in accelerated freshmen biology classes.
PAUSD’s overall API increased by eight points from a score of 926 in 2011 to a score of 934 in 2012. District officials note that Gunn’s API growth played a significant role in the district-wide API increase. “As a district, our API is calculated on all the students tested in grades 2-11,” Wilmot said. “Students tested at Gunn make up 14 percent of the total population tested in the district, so the performance of Gunn’s students will have a significant impact on the overall district API.” Gunn’s API increased by a more significant margin than that of Palo Alto High School, which went from a score of 900 in 2011 to a score of 906 in 2012.
Administration officials attribute the increase in API to support for students from the entire Gunn community. “To me this represents all the support our kids get from teachers, from administrators, from classified support staff, everything you can think of,” Villalobos said.