Davis students once again scored one of the highest test scores in the region in the 2007 Base Academic Performance Index, according to the state Department of Education. All the schools in the Davis district scored above 800 this year, placing them under the “high performing schools” category.
The districtwide API score for Davis 868. Out of the 14 scores released in Davis, nine improved their scores. Davis High School saw the greatest improvement with a 25-point increase. The largest decrease was 11 points at Fairfield Elementary.
“I think the schools continue to show improvement because the staff is providing quality instruction,” said Clark Bryant, director of curriculum and instruction for the Davis Joint Unified School District. “The staff is providing quality instruction, and we evaluate the scores every fall and identify [where] improvements can be made and focus our resources on those.”
The continuous support from the community may be one of the reasons why the students scored so well, Bryant said.
“We have a great support from the parent community, and it helps the schools become more supportive academically,” he said.
Davis High School has worked over the past year to improve its scores, which have fluctuated in the past, said DHS Principal Mike Cawley.
“We’re getting more students to become more aware about how the test scores are important and by trying harder,” Cawley said. “We’re emphasizing the importance of the scores by closing the achievement gap. We had some extra reading classes, and we tried to improve instructions in classes.”
The achievement gap may actually be the biggest challenge for DHS, said Kathy Magrino, co-president of the school’s PTA.
“[One of the challenges] that I see as most intense at DHS is the achievement gap,” she said. “DHS has such a large group of very high performing students that the student group, which in other schools would be high performing, are in the 50th percentile at DHS. And our struggling students have an even greater gap than high schools that are lower performing. These students cannot be left behind and pose unique challenges for our school.”
Despite the budget cuts, the teachers still make their best effort to provide the best education, Magrino said.
“I am always very happy when the school improves in any area every year, but this year it is even more special, because many of our teachers provided an excellent academic program as well as extra and co-curricular programs with pink slips in their pockets,” she said. “This shows the professional dedication the DHS teachers have.”
Although a school of only four years, Leonardo da Vinci High School scores increased by 10 points. Unlike other schools, Leonardo da Vinci employs project-base learning, said Principal Matt Best.
“For example, if [the students] learned about World War I, they create a WWI museum in which they recreated documents and open it up to the public, and students had to answer questions about their exhibits,” he said. “This context allows students to really understand what they’re learning. Every project has something like a panel or create a documentary.”
The project-based programs may be one of the reasons why students at Leonardo da Vinci improved.
“Many schools focus on the standardize tests and don’t make [education] as exciting for the students,” Best said. “We feel very good about our test scores because they are learning the context standards and all these other skills [from the projects]. We have lots of other values that we perpetuate through the projects, like critical thinking and problem solving skills.”
JANET HUNG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.