On Aug. 29, when the California Department of Education released the annual Academic Performance Index report, based on last year’s Standardized Testing and Reporting Program, the California High School Exit Examination, and the California Alternate Performance Assessment, the students and staff at Jefferson High School in Daly City held their breath.
Not only was their academic reputation in the community on the line, but a promised party in celebration of a job well done. The celebration, proposed before testing last school year by Principal Jason Brockmeyer, was used as a motivational tool for students to demonstrate that they are capable of much more than what the previous test years show.
“We set a goal, 725, and whenever you meet or exceed a goal, you need to celebrate,” said Brockmeyer. “So I polled every class, and the overwhelming feedback was a school wide celebration, so naturally I promised them that celebration—and the students responded.”
Alice Aran, Spanish teacher, said, “The students at Jeff are the best. I’m not surprised; I knew they could do that and more.”
For the 2011-2012 school year, Jefferson’s school-wide base score was 694. The target growth was 31 points: 694 to 725. Brockmeyer told students that if they scored higher than 725 (which was beyond the goal the state set for the school), there would be a grand celebration in honor of the students’ achievement.
Jefferson students did much more than surpass their goal—they obliterated it, boasting an increase of 41 points, the most of any high school in San Mateo County. The 2012-2013 score was 735.
Jefferson High School serves the residents of Pacifica, Brisbane, Colma, Daly City, and San Francisco.
In addition, the school met or exceeded all 22 of its Adequate Yearly Progress criteria, showing significant growth in all its major sub-groups. In fact, with a score of 614 for English language learners last year, the target growth was a 9 point increase. Students in that group scored 100 points better than the previous year.
Vice Principal of Administration Jim Thomas said the staff went through an extensive training prior to the 2012-2013 year. According to Thomas, “the API scores show that we have a population of staff and students who are excelling.”
Counselor Regina Biagini concurs. “I think it is a testament to great teaching and hard work on our students’ part. I hope that our students continue to do well, as it helped show the community what a wonderful school Jefferson is.”
“Obviously the students took it seriously and really tried their best,” said health teacher Cesar Vega. “It also shows the emphasis on literacy and language acquisition. It’s obvious that the strategies that the teachers are using are effective.”
When Brockmeyer made the announcement at the end of the day last week, students, teachers, and staff cheered together. Not so much for the anticipated party, but for the sense of achievement and to demonstrate to the community that Jefferson is a strong academic school.
Brockmeyer said, “The increase in API scores is a reflection of the hard work being done at Jefferson High School by both the staff and most importantly, the students. It is exciting to see what happens when a community works together to ensure the success of our youth. What is really exciting is that this is just the start.”
“It’s great for the school and for our students as it shapes public opinion about our school,” said Librarian Sheelah Mercado. “I’ve never believed, though that the API is an accurate measurement of how good a school is and encourage parents and students to visit schools and observe classes to better inform their enrollment decisions. I’ve always known Jefferson students and staff are as capable, if not more so than others. Now the public knows it too.”
“For me the increase in scores at Jefferson is very exciting to just be a part of how much Jefferson continues to
grow. It was validating to see that students are engaged in the classroom and are continuing to think critically and independently,” said social sciences teacher Justin Young. “As a school, it is also exciting to see how engaged and empowered students are starting to feel in the learning process and it really shows with how much we have grown in one year.”
Students were thrilled about their individual scores and school scores alike. Senior Oscar Romo said, “I surpassed my expectations by scoring a lot higher than I usually do. I never imagined we could improve so much over that amount of time. It’s amazing, really.”
The accomplishment is especially rewarding for alumnus John Falabella, who graduated from Jefferson in 1995 and now teaches social sciences at his alma mater.
“Regardless of the test scores, I have always felt that Jefferson was a great school full of hardworking students and staff, however, the public’s perception of Jefferson has not been indicative of that fact,” said Falabella, who is also the school’s athletic director. “I am very proud of the test scores because they will bring some positive light to the school in the public’s eye and hopefully the scores will start to wash away the negativity that is associated with Jefferson High School.”
Larissa Hermosillo,who also graduated in 1995, now has a daughter who is a sophomore at Jefferson. “The fact that my daughter is at Jefferson now, it means so much to me that we have an administrative team that has taken action in making a real change at Jefferson High School. There were always students with potential, but now they are given the tools and opportunities to thrive.”
Hermosillo’s mother, Barbara Hermosillo, is also a Jefferson graduate, class of 1975, and is the school receptionist.
With the next round of state testing months away, Brockmeyer already has new goals in mind.
“The scores were exciting to receive and it was encouraging to see that the students reached our goal. It was great to see that the students and staff were both invested in it. However, we still have a lot of room to grow. Our goal for this year is to score at least a 750, which I am confident our staff and students should easily attain because, of course, we are Jeff.”
Junior Randy Revita said, “Now that our API is higher than last year it just proves that we all have to work harder. It shows that we aren’t the underdogs anymore and we will be able to encourage future generations of Jefferson students to improve.
See 2013 Growth API for all Pacifica schools here.