- See also: Using Test Scores to Evaluate Schools
I'm a newbie to the BUSD and am wondering about choosing the right school. When are the information times? Can you do tours? The schools I'm most interested in in our ''zone'' are Thousand Oaks and Jefferson. Secondly, the STAR scores listed on the web site are pretty poor for most of the schools. Are these tests a good measure for the schools' capabilities?
The visiting days, and information nights are available on the BUSD website http://www.berkeley.k12.ca.us As to test scores: Berkeley scores are really quite good, and improving. They are higher than both the state and the county average. However, they do reflect the number of socioeconomically disadvantaged students the district serves, because children from families with higher incomes score better than those from low incomes. This means BUSD scores will always be lower than those in suburban districts (like Orinda/ Moraga) or very wealthy districts (like Piedmont). It is important to look at the test scores as broken down by demographics to see how your own ethnic group is fairing. Anything over 800 is meeting the state standard. Now, if more middle- and upper- class families in Berkeley sent their kids to public schools, the aggregate scores would go way up! happy BUSD parent
Look at test scores with a questioning eye. Look at subcategories (African-American, white, Hispanic, low- income, etc) not just the overall school score (in Berkeley white, non-low income students are generally 200-300 test points higher than other subgroups - so if your child is white, the subgroup score/trend is probably more relevant than the overall school score - and whether your child is white or of color (high or underachieving) the school's response to the achievement gap is important - schools SHOULD be expecting ALL students to achieve. Look at trends (test scores improving?). More importantly VISIT THE SCHOOL! Check out the hallways, the playgrounds, the principal's office - get a feel for the school's overall approach to discipline/expected student behavior. Go to a PTA meeting/School Site meeting and talk to active parents (and find out whether there IS an active parent community - and a sense of school community?). Check out after school programs if you will need extended day care. Look at more than kindergarten - get a sense if there is a cohesive, schoolwide expectation for each successive grade. Ask about/talk to the principal - is he/she out and about?, value community decision-making?- proactive or reactive? - RESPECTED or ignored? Are teachers engaged in ongoing training in differentiated teaching? dealing with diversity (class and race)? working as a team within grades? Look at bulletin boards and what's in classrooms. Do at least most classes/bulletin boards show student work (and check out quality of work!) and/or creative? And of course, consider your child's personality/needs - for example, some public schools are more structured than others, are more art oriented, etc. Karen H.