Guest View: Colusa Unified API scores rise
Colusa Unified School District saw a significant increase in the district's Academic Performance Index this year. API incorporates STAR test scores, exit exam test scores and a number of other factors to give an indication of the progress of the school. In 2012 CUSD's API grew by 3 points, the 2013 report shows a 10 point jump.
Digging a bit deeper into the data reveals a number of interesting facts about our students' performance. Test scores for minority students increased by an average of 12 points, while nonminority students grew 20 points last year. Our students who come from families living in poverty grew 15 points, and English language learners grew an astounding 37 points on average.
While these scores are certainly a reason for celebration, challenges remain. There is a significant achievement gap between white students and all other sub groups. White students scored an 837 API on average, while the average for other groups of students was 681.
This is not a fact that is easy to write, but it is the truth. All the teachers are working hard to close the gap, and the district leadership continues to look for ways to support those efforts.
Research has shown that students who struggle academically benefit most when district's adopt best-practice instructional strategies. There are a number of districts with 90 percent minority populations, and yet 90 percent of the students score proficient or advanced on the STAR tests. What others have achieved, our kids can achieve. There is no simple recipe or silver bullet for closing achievement gaps. It takes dedication to the concepts of a standards aligned curriculum, taught by highly motivated teachers, who use best-practice instructional techniques, and work in an atmosphere of high expectations for everyone.
In the world of manufacturing, companies which produce excellent products measure quality continuously during the production process. The best schools take a similar approach. They constantly assess student learning, and adjust instruction to ensure that students really understand the standards, at all times during the school year.
Test scores make great guides for educators, but they are a terrible engine. Particularly with standardized tests, we have to remember that the scores are only a narrow view of student performance on a given day. If a district focuses only on the test scores, it is easy to forget that each data point represents the work of a child who has individual needs, unique talents, and very different life experiences.
Scores should measure how well the system is doing, not how one student compares to another. If we do the right work in our schools, all of our kids will learn more and the scores will reflect the increased learning. We are not satisfied with our overall student achievement level, but our scores seem to indicate we are on the right track.
– Dwayne K. Newman is superintendent of Colusa Unified School District.
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