Palo Alto fourth in state among K-12 districts

But 'much remains to be done' in raising achievement of some subgroups

Palo Alto ranks fourth statewide among K-12 school districts, as measured by the state Academic Performance Index (API).

But district officials say "much remains to be accomplished" in boosting the achievement of certain student groups, including English learners, students with disabilities, students from poor families and under-represented minorities.

Palo Alto schools have a multi-pronged strategy on achievement: challenge the high achievers and bolster students in the middle or struggling at the bottom.

The multiple goals are reflected in a progress report on K-8 results that the Board of Education will discuss tonight, 6:30 p.m. at district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.

The districts with the top three APIs are San Marino, La Canada and Piedmont.

William Garrison, the district's director of assessment and evaluation, prepared a summary of how various groups are doing in meeting academic targets.

On California's basic measure of academic achievement, the California Standards Tests (CST) in English and math, 85 percent of Palo Alto second- through eighth-graders scored "advanced" or "proficient." More than 50 percent scored "advanced," Garrison reported.

In the past five years, second- through eighth-graders scoring "basic" or below on the English CST has dropped from 21 percent to 15 percent.

Of 1,309 second- through 11th-graders scoring "basic" or below on the CST English test, 34 percent were students with learning disabilities; 28 percent were English learners; 28 percent were low-income; 29 percent were Hispanic; 12 percent were African-American. Twenty-five percent had no learning disabilities and were not low-income, minority or English learners.


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Posted by Barry
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 13, 2009 at 5:26 am

It is great to see the PA schools doing so well.

However, my problem with the published progress report (and with CA public schools in general), is that almost all the focus and goals are on bringing the lowest 10-25% of performers up to an acceptable level. This is a commendable goal, but there is not nearly enough attention to everyone else. Where are the goals for the top 10% of students or even the top 50% of students? These are the future entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors, etc.. and public schools are not serving society by letting them work it out on their own. It is not enough to simply say we want them to get one grade level better.

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Posted by Sun
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2009 at 7:12 am

"It is not enough to simply say we want them to get one grade level better."

Right. And that is not even the stated goal. The district only aims for them to make a year of progress at grade level, so if the kid starts above grade level, the district is done with him or her.

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Posted by 1sizefitsall
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 13, 2009 at 9:28 am

Barry you are right. For some time now, the education establishment has been opposed to most ability grouping because this is considered elitist. So only lip service is given to gifted students and the focus is primarily on the bottom. And the curriculum is meant for all levels in the classroom which really doesn't help the ones on the bottom who could use more one on one help. This doesn't help students who could have a more challenging curriculum similar to private schools. Dumbed down curriculum is especially the case in the middle schools -- kids get bored and when they hit high school they're not prepared. Unless parents tutor them which is what those in the know do.

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Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 13, 2009 at 9:54 am

I think the rankings agencies should read Dweck's book Mindset.

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Posted by Midtown neighborr
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Great, hopefully this will make people forget about the teens who lost their lives in the railroads because they were so stressout and missundarstanded by schools.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 13, 2009 at 1:42 pm

What about Los Altos, Cupertino, Fremont?

Just wait until Everyday Math kicks in after a few years and the API scores drop at Piedmont and Palo Alto.

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Posted by Statistics
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 13, 2009 at 4:51 pm

I believe that Los Altos, Cupertino, and Fremont are NOT K-12 districts. Ranked just against them our K-8 would not do as well, I believe.

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Posted by Moira
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Palo Alto has 10,000 students. Piedmont has 10,000 total population. San Marino has 13,000 in entire town, La Canada has 20,000 in entire town. So these are small, extremely wealthy communities. Not to say that teachers aren't valuable, but keep in mind that it's the demographics of the school disctrict which determine the test scores. All 4 of these districts have unusually high educational levels for parents, which have been shown to correlate to childrens' achievement academically. Nothing new. People move here because they think the schools are somehow "magical", when it's really the town population pool which makes the test scores.

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Posted by more statistics
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 13, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Statistics, you're partly right...

Fremont: FUSD has approximately 32,000 students in grades K-12. Web Link

Cupertino: Cupertino Union School District, with state and national recognition for the excellence of its schools, serves 17,500 students Web Link

Los Altos: Los Altos School District is an elementary school district in northwest Santa Clara County serving students in grades kindergarten to eighth (K-8). Web Link

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Posted by Mary
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 13, 2009 at 9:48 pm

The rep of the district helps to keep the inflated housing prices where they are and rising. An organization is only as strong as its weakest link. The so-called talented 10% will survive and flourish by virtue of their trust funds and Stanford connections. The poor white and non-whites kids need the publice education system to get ahead.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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