When he first was presented a cake two years ago with the incredible 912 Academic Performance Index score, Principal Joe Martinez warned the parents and faculty that it’s hard to maintain such a high standard. Anything more than the previous year’s 901 was pretty high.
“I fully expect that there will be bumps that we don’t progress upwards each year, and may go down a few times—it’s a hard score to maintain,” said the principal of Carpenter Community Charter School, who shepherded the school into its present Los Angeles Unified School District charter-affiliate system.
But, last year, the scores jumped to 930. This is at a time where the average LAUSD score is more than 200 points below that—at 729. And, this is the combined total for the entire school, and it’s out of 1,000 points (the perfect score).
“This year, I would have been happy to get 1 point—hit 931,” Martinez said.
And, at the last Governance Council meeting—although official numbers have yet to be announced by LAUSD—Martinez said that Carpenter students achieved a surprising 941 score. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Martinez estimated it at 938 thinking that it may be one or two points off in either direction and it turns out official reports is that it went UP from his original prediciton of 938.)
“It’s an amazing score, and it’s reflective of the hard work the teachers, parents and students have put into it,” the principal said.
What does he attribute to the high scores? He has a few tricks.
There’s an incentive where students get Popcorn Passes for students on Fridays. Using the slogan “the magic is in you,” the principal can be seen passing out popcorn with a magician’s hat.
He also tested, with the third grade, handing out gum during the tests. He read a study that said if the students had something they were chewing during testing they scored better. (Principal Susan Kim at Valley View Elementary School tried the same thing giving out peppermints before testing and came up with equally positive results.)
“We also released and reviewed previous tests so that the students were familiar with the format of the test,” Martinez said.
Parents are being mailed out their children’s test scores this week, and the actual school report cards will follow.
Martinez said when drilling down into the scores, he found some incredible insights.
The scores for science went up from 84 percent to 92 percent for the school. He credits that to the work of c science instructor, Lori Belateche, who works with all age groups in the Science Lab.
“The 92 percent score is astounding, and we can thank Lori Belateche for a lot of that work,” Martinez said.
Other noteworthy points in the preliminary numbers show:
* English Language Arts went up from 86 to 89 percent.
* A seven point gain in Math proficience—to 88 percent.
* Carpenter has an 11 percent gifted school population. (Neighboring schools have 8 to 9 percent.)
* The scores for students who speak English as a second language rose 8 percent.
* Some of the Special Ed students received perfect scores.
Where does the principal see the need for the most improvement? In attendance, mainly.
Last year only 66 percent of the students missed few than seven days of school. It was at 56 percent the year before. Even with a concerted effort to encourage better attendance, Martinez said that number could be better.
The next Governance Council Meeting at Carpenter is on Thursday, Oct. 18 at 2:45 p.m.