The latest STAR — standardized testing and reporting — results are in, and not surprisingly, the Menlo Park City School District's students did very well overall, rating an enviable API score of 915.
However, not all of the district's demographic groups tested well in English and math, and that's provoking some soul-searching among school board members and administrators.
"What we've got to ask ourselves is, is it acceptable that 72 percent of our African American students are below proficient (in English and language arts)?" said district school board member Jeff Childs at the board's Sept. 9 meeting.
Board members said that they've been aware for years that minority students from the Ravenswood district who transfer to the Portola Valley, Woodside elementary or Las Lomitas school districts perform better academically than the students who transfer to the Menlo Park district. They just don't know why.
"Two kids get on a bus from Ravenswood, and one goes here and one goes there, and at the end of their (school) careers, theirs is doing better than ours," said Bruce Ives, the school board president.
It's time that the Menlo Park district ask what other districts are doing differently, and why it seems to be working, Mr. Ives said.
"In all the years we've been looking at it, ours are always worse, significantly worse," said board member Terry Thygesen.
According to a breakdown of the entire district, students in the socio-economically disadvantaged group — whose parents don't have a high school diploma or who qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches — fared the worst on the STAR test, with only 27 percent proficient or advanced in English and 30 percent proficient or advanced in math.
African American students scored only slightly better, at 28 percent in English and 33 percent in math.
Latino and Pacific Islander scores fell in the middle, at 42 percent and 46 percent for English, and 38 percent and 42 percent in math, respectively.
White and Asian students are doing far better on the tests than other groups, with nearly 90 percent of Asians and whites scoring at or above proficient in English. Ninety-four percent of Asians, and 87 percent of whites scored at or above proficient in math.
The scores were based on the test results from 1,266 white children, 119 Asians, 46 African Americans, 127 Latinos, 33 Pacific Islanders and 81 socio-economically disadvantaged children in the district.
The STAR test, given annually to California students beginning in second grade, measures proficiency in key academic skills, and the results are used to calculate the Academic Performance Index (API), a score between 200 and 1,000. Districts officials want to see a steady annual increase in the number of students who test at the proficient or advanced level, and there are penalties for districts that fail to meet target numbers.
The STAR test numbers presented to the board don't show at what point in their academic careers the students are falling behind, said Assistant Superintendent Jo Sauer Mitchell.
School board members asked for more analysis of the scores and a comparison of the various student groups' performance with that of other local school districts. That information is expected to be presented at the next school board meeting, set for Oct. 7.
2008 Academic Performance Index (API) scores:
•Menlo Park City School District, 915
•Encincal School, 913
•Laurel School, 880
•Oak Knoll School, 924
•Hillview Middle School, 919