Academic Performance Index (API)

Archived Responses: 
Questions Related Pages

How did Montclair Elementary get the highest scores?

May 2010

The new API rankings are out: ( and Montclair Elementary has overtaken Hillcrest and Thornhill to become the high ranking elementary school in Oakland. I'm wondering if anyone knows how this was achieved? What has the school improved to get a higher score this year? -oaklandparent

You're talking about a difference of ONE point between Montclair and Hillcrest--that's hardly statistically significant. I doubt Montclair did anything very differently last year; this handful of schools always has the highest test scores (big correlation between student socio-economics and scores, of course). Anyway, rather than focusing on a few points here and there, why not look at the big picture? I'd be happy to have my kids at any one of the top 15 (in terms of test scores) Oakland elementary schools (and lucky for us, they are--though, horrors, their school hasn't topped 900 yet!). I don't mean to be facetious, but I find test scores to be a small percentage of what makes a great school (and ours is). If you look at the percentage of free/reduced lunch and/or English language learners, you'll see that almost none of the top 15 schools (in terms test scores) have more than 20% free/reduced lunch or 5% ELL students. Notable exceptions: Peralta, Grass Valley and Lincoln. Now, THAT's good teaching: high test scores, low-income kids and ELLs. Loving our Oakland school

Was the poster surprised? These three schools have been close in scores for many years. Oddly many people forget to group Montlcair with Thornill and Hillcrest (in terms of performance). All three have (sadly) less diversity and (unfairly) more parent resources than other Oakland schools.

Why did Montclair top out this year? ... An excellent principal? A down-turned economy sending more potential private school kids (with parents with even more resources) to the local school? Luck of the draw?

We have a kindergartner there and are very happy. But the API doesn't add to the experience. We're looking at teacher quality, kid happiness, enrichment, etc. Montclair is a winner, top score or not. We are fortunate. -Kim

A bit of clarification. These are not new scores. Scores come out at the end of Aug/beginning of Sept based on the previous spring testing. What came out this week was the ''Similar Schools Rank'' indicating how a school is doing first compared to the state and then compared to 100 similar schools. (Similar in size, demographics, economic levels, blah blah blah).

What you need to know is that scores can change from year to year based on so much (and so little)- Five kids were sick when testing, a tired kid, etc. If a school scores over 900, do not worry-it is a great ''scoring school''. A school with 940 vs. 960 is not going to be any different in quality. I say great ''scoring schools'' because you also need to know that there are schools scoring in the 700s that are perfectly fine and have quality education. Testing only tells us so much. It is an important measure but is only one measure. Don't allow the over emphasis on testing to stress you out. High School Administrator/Testing coordinator

Please be careful in assuming that the school has ''improved'' something in order to have the highest ranking API score. I'm not implying that they are doing anything wrong either -- but many things outside the school's control can affect the API.

First, like any test score, it is not so accurate that a small difference is meaningful. There's an ''error band'' around these API scores, and for the Oakland hills schools, I'm pretty sure their error bands all overlap. This means that they are really indistinguishable, even though one comes out a couple of points higher than the other -- i.e. Montclair is one point higher than Hillcrest and 15 points higher than Thornhill on a scale of that goes up to 1000 -- differences like this don't mean much, and schools can change rank from year to year without actually changing anything. Second, several of the hills schools are overenrolled (more students are in that school's area than the school can actually hold). This is true for Hillcrest, and I believe for Thornhill too. Last summer, Montclair added a bunch of new portables to its campus, and I believe this was so they could take in the extra students. Changes like this can account for small differences, as family educational and economic background can have a significant influence on API scores.

Finally, the API is only one part of what a school is. School climate, parent involvement, teacher philosophy, principal leadership style, and so on all are important in a child's education, and none show up in the API. Karen

I don't have children in Oakland Unified but speaking as a parent who has seen testing in the public schools for nearly a decade my first reaction to your question was: Who cares which school ''beat out'' another school on a standardized test? Education is not a baseball game. These are children--each one unique in their own right.

Children may or may not be attentive or focused on the day of the test. The questions may be worded in a way that they don't understand, even though they actually know the information. In addition, testing only on reading and math is a crude way of measuring a child's overall intelligence and problem-solving ability.

And does anyone think testing has done much to solve the achievement gap? Seems like more effective parenting and better preschool options have done more to address this issue. Sorry, but I think standardized testing is a failed program and can't wait until we move on to a new education ''reform'' fad in public schools. I would rather see testing done away with and more money going into the performing arts, science, and physical education. anon

Information about 1999 API Test Results

Feb 2000

The Berkeley Unified School District has all its schools' scores online together on one page here:

The State of California website will take some digging around and it looks like the documents are not in a very nice readable form:

The Oakland Unified School District has put all the state schools online in a very nice searchable interface - search for Oakland, Alameda County, or any district in the state:

Piedmont USD scores:

Albany: I could not find any info about API scores on the AUSD web site

Contra Costa: West Contra Costa USD just links to the state web page