Santa Clara County School District Ratings: 2007 Base API

California's 2007 Base API scores have been released and, looking at the complete list of Santa Clara 2007 Base API scores, congratulations need to go to Los Altos, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Palo Alto elementary school districts for maintaining district API averages above 900.  While this is par for the course in these districts, to put this achievement in perspective, the overall state API for all grades is 728.

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There are two other metrics in the report, statewide rank and similar schools rank, both ratings from 1 to 10.  Each number represents a decile, with 10 being the top 10% of all schools in that category.

This metric compares schools that have similar characteristics, based on ethnicity, socioeconomic status, teacher credentials, and (about a dozen) other factors.  So which number matters more: the state or similar schools rank?

By far, the state number.  Let's look at some of the Cupertino Union figures for examples. 

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The third column is the state ranking and the fourth is for similar schools: Blue Hills is 10/8, Collins is 10/7, and DeVargas is 8/2.  Eisenhower and Muir (not shown) are both 10/2 with API scores of 906 and 894 respectively.

The difference in API between 10/8 and 10/7 is only 10 points, but the difference between a 10/2 and 8/2 is about 60 points.  The reason is because schools that are alike tend to have similar performance.  When you group those schools together and rank them, some turn out to be the best of the group and others the lowest-rated of the group.  

So if a 10/10 school is the best of the best, should parents be worried about a 10/2 school like Eisenhower or Muir elementary?  There is room for improvement, but a 10 means the school is in the top 10% of all schools in California.  At that level, I'd be more focused on what programs, classes and activities a school has to offer than beating other quality schools in standardized tests.