On the black top of Cesar Chavez Elementary School, Principal Adelina Aramburo announced during the morning assembly that the school had been named the second most improved school in the San Francisco Unified School District.

“We are thrilled to announce that we have improve by 50 points,” she said, leaving the school with a total score of 646.

But what Aramburo did not mention is that the school’s improvement fails to meet the state’s target score of 800 for all schools and that Cesar Chavez—and all of the Mission District schools except George Moscone Elementary School—rank at the bottom of the district even when compared to schools with similar demographics.

Cesar Chavez may be slowly improving, but it’s among the bottom three elementary schools in the city along with Mission’s Buena Vista.

Mission District middle and high school rankings are equally as poor,  according to this week’s recent release of 2008 API scores.

Through an assessment done by the California Department of Education, the Academic Performance Index (API) is used to measure the academic performance for every school based on yearly standardized tests and exit exams that students take in English, math, science and history.  API scores start as low as 200 and can go as high as 1,000.

Horace Mann and Everett Middle Schools were the two lowest scoring middles school in the city. Horace Mann gained a small 29 points increase leaving it at 600 points but it was still among the bottom five schools in the city. Also on this list is John O’Connell High, which went down 12 points to 565 compared to scores of 553 in 2007.

But with even worst scores than both is Mission High coming in with 545 points and ranking among the lowest scoring high school in the school district next to June Jordan School for Equity.

On the Cesar Chavez playground parents said they were aware of the Mission’s bad scores and reputation. Parent Maria Hernandez feels certain that the responsibility should be put on the teachers, “I would like for teachers to make more of an effort and push the students harder,” she said.

Parent Morris Garcia said he felt uncertain about the problem “It’s a terrible thing for sure because you can’t pin point if it is teachers or students,” he  said noting language barriers and the schools teachers as possible source of the problem.

While some may consider the Mission Districts large proportion of English language learners -who characteristically score lower on standardized testing as a reason for low API scores, Moscone Elementary, which has a majority of English language learners,  continues to excel with an API of 855 and ranks among the top schools.

Principal Elementary Susan Wiggins credited the schools teachers. “We have expectations for every student to meet grade level standard regardless of language,” she said and added that she thinks the ability to keep a consistent and dedicated school staff is a major factor in the students schooling experience.

Robert Bernstein, of state Academic Accountability Unit said that although there are no adjustments made for differences like primary language on API scores a good indicator of how a school is performing is for parents to look at how their child’s school compares to schools with similar student populations.

The similar school rank of 1 to 10 is also listed on the API report.  All but two Mission school received the lowest score of, “1” when compared to similar schools.

Spanish speaking parent Elsa Sanabria said although she lives in the Mission she said she will definitely be looking outside of the district for middle and high school opportunities for her children.

The San Francisco school assignment system allows families to request up to seven choices for schools outside of their neighborhood. On the statewide rank all scored one out of ten except Marshall, which scored a 2 and Moscone, which scored a 9.  On the Similar School Rank, all scored one out of ten except Flynn, which scored a 2 and Moscone, which scored a 10.

School             2008 Base API

Bryant 667
Buena Vista 645
Cesar Chavez 646
Flynn 684
Everett 607
Horace Mann 600
John O’Connell 565
Marshall 706
Mission High 545
Moscone 855