Saratoga experiences 25-point API score increase

September 22, 2008 — by Saniha Shankar and Andy Tsao

Saratoga High has historically been one of the highest ranked public high schools in California in terms of Academic Performance Index or API scores. This year, the school had a record 25-point increase in its API score, going from 903 in 2007 to 928 in 2008, outperforming rival schools like Lynbrook and Monta Vista to become one of the top three schools in the Bay Area and the top performer in the Santa Clara County.

The school’s API scores have been dropping in the past couple of years, which makes this increase much more remarkable.

“I think that a 25-point increase is pretty astonishing,” said principal Jeff Anderson. “I don’t think there were any schools above 900 that went up 25 points. To increase that score once it’s over 900 is really hard.”

Anderson thinks the primary cause of the big increase is that students began to try harder this year. In the years before, some students didn’t take the test seriously, and some would either try to get excused from taking the test or mark random answers. Anderson also gave credit to the English Department’s writing assessment, which he said has greatly improved students’ writing abilities. The writing assessment measures students’ writing level at the beginning and end of the school year.

“[The writing assesment] has really improved the quality of writing in our campus,” said Anderson. “Ninety percent of students are now writing at proficient or advanced levels.”

The math section of the test, too, saw great improvement, according to Anderson, algebra and geometry teachers began to give even more targeted attention to students who had not done well in the past.

As a result, every group on campus—all ethnicities and boys and girls—saw massive improvement on last year’s California Standardized Test (CST).

“Across the board and in all different content areas there was improvement,” said Anderson.

Another motivational force for students to do well was the inclusion of CST score reports when students ask for letters of recommendation from teachers. Some students who, in previous years, did not see any value in taking the CST seriously, are now aware of the direct influence of CST scores on their college applications. In addition, many teachers made pitches to students to do their best.

“The score awareness on the students’ part helped,” said Anderson.

Now that students are taking the standardized test seriously, he said, Saratoga High can now effectively analyze strengths and weaknesses of the various departments.

“What we need to look at is what it actually shows about our programs,” said Anderson

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