SANTA ANA, CA—Parent Patricia Ayon can’t fathom how anyone could judge her daughter’s school, Walker Elementary, by a single number.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling you get here,” Ayon says. “At Walker, the principal, teachers and staff are all very open to us.
For Latino parents, you can’t compare that with anything else. “
Ayon’s sentiment shows what some parents may find is the weakness in the state’s Academic Performance Index, or API, which aims to grade schools based on a score and ranking. After all, they know what works at their school.
Walker’s API is 500, below the state median of 630. It rates a three on the statewide rankings, out of a possible 10. But compared with schools with students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, Walker ranks well above average _ an eight.
At Walker, 86 percent of the students are on free or reduced-price lunches and almost half come from homes from which parents did not graduate high school. About 25 percent of Walker students are Asian (Cambodian and Cham) and 75 percent are Hispanic (Mexican and Central American).
Those demographics shape the programs the school offers.
In Brenda Call’s second-grade bilingual class, students do double-digit subtraction on worksheets with instructions in Spanish. By the time the kids get tested again in May, Call is confident that her students will understand the instructions in English _ as they will be on the test.
The school has started to take more measures of how well students comprehend the material they learn.
For example, in Dee Barrett’s fourth- and fifth-grade combination class, students take a pop quiz right after reading about a West African legend so Barrett can measure how much they understand before she starts her lesson. Once the lesson is over, she will test them again. That practice is being repeated throughout the school, and Principal Robert DeBerry says it’s helped with API scores.
Said DeBerry: “When teachers understand their weaknesses and strengths, it helps their students do better. “