NORTHGATE FALLING GRADES? LOWER API SCORES?

Asked by Joe, Menlo Park, CA Wed Sep 19, 2012

REPRINTED FROM THE CONTRA COSTA TIMES:

I'm sorry to say that State API rankings for Northgate High and Foothill Middle have plummeted (http://www.cde.ca.gov/getschoolreport). For the first time, both schools have dropped from the top tier 10th decile, down to the 9th decile. Over 12 years, Northgate's ranking compared to "similar schools" (e.g. Acalanes and San Ramon districts) has dropped from the near-perfect 9th decile, down to the 2nd decile that is termed "well below average."
This decline is caused by our dysfunctional governance system. Our families are stuck in limbo between the Mt. Diablo school board that does not meet to coordinate with Walnut Creek and the numerous other cities in Mt. Diablo district. Recently the Mt. Diablo school board refused a "Mayoral Council" idea presented from several mayors "to build good community relationships." There are important issues to discuss, such as a parcel tax, school closures, school safety and crossing guards. We were grateful last

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8
Bob Georgiou, Agent, Danville, CA
Thu Sep 20, 2012
Walnut Creek v MDUSD politics is in play here to some extend. I saw letter posted in the editorials by Ruth Carver, I believe, and she is one voice of many who are spearheading efforts to consolidate all Walnut Creek schools under one district separate from MDUSD.

Currently there are 3 districts within Walnut Creek. Around Larkey and South Walnut Creek at the grade school level children go to school in the Walnut Creek School district then advance into Las Lomas a high school in the Acalanes school system. Over on the other side its all MDUSD where Northgate is the top high school and Carriage Square and the Pleasant Hill edge of Walnut Creek feed into Ygnacio High. Then there is the Crossings and Crystal Ranch in Concord that feed into Northgate. Its a mess that predates much of the population in this area.

This days nothing about Clayton whose residents have been clamoring the district for their own high school. As you see the district is being pulled in a variety of different directions. Looking ahead realignments are coming, as Concord develops the old military base land, several new schools will be built.

The district has felt (my characterization) that losing the high tax base properties in Walnut Creek would hurt students district wide inplyiung that the high tax paying Nortgate owners have been subsidizing the more academically challenged schools in the district. Walnut Creek residents have been fighting to keep those resources but the fact reamains that the Northgate population is aging and more students are being let in from areas traditionally outside the geographic zones.

The demand for resources, looming financial challenges and demographics have taken its toll on the Northgate feeder group but this school is in Walnut Creek and likely will remain the top school in the district as residents care about the school and property values will reflect that into the future.
1 vote
I think the top High School in Walnut Creek is Las Lomas high which beats Northgate High in academics (not Football). Las Lomas has much more $$ as it is in the Acalanes School District which is part of Orinda and Moraga.
Flag Fri Sep 21, 2012
Joe, Home Buyer, Menlo Park, CA
Wed Oct 10, 2012
Michelle,

Is "experiential learning" or "experimental learning" all that great? Is that like "new math" 30 years ago? Test scores are extremely important. The MCAT, GMAT, LSAT, and SAT value test scores. If you score low, you don't get in to a top tier school, plain and simple. Too many American children are taught that scores don't mean that much and thus don't put an emphasis on scores. Then the foreign students end up getting a higher SAT, MCAT, GMAT, LSAT higher than an American born student whose first language is English! It is no wonder why over 50% of PHD programs across USA are made up of foreign students, mostly from China, Russia, and India. It is no wonder that medical schools are heavily weighted with med students from India.
0 votes
Michelle Pre…, , Walnut Creek, CA
Mon Oct 1, 2012
Mt. Diablo schools have been economically-challenged, that's for sure. Because of that, we seriously considered moving within the boundaries of a better-funded school system (Acalanes/Walnut Creek). In the end we didn't, for other reasons. But I have to say, I am very impressed with the teachers at Northgate this year. They seem to be shifting their focus to one of experiential learning with the kids, and not just test-based. I'm not really sure what the test scores mean, but I do know that, so far, my very bright, active child is finding Northgate fun and rewarding. Perhaps these challenging times are making them stronger and more versatile. Michelle Reese 4michellereese@gmail.com
0 votes
Joe, Home Buyer, Menlo Park, CA
Fri Sep 28, 2012
Northgate and Valle Verde are in the MDUSD, not WCSD. Thus, Northgate and Valle Verde had their Gifted Programs cut due to lack of funds. API scores do drive property values. When people are shopping for a home, they are looking for "good schools". This means schools with a Gifted Program and schools that have high API scores. Northgate is falling in that respect and all the fund raising cannot stop it. For the record, just about all schools in Northern California are really into fund raising via their PFC/PFA/PTA organizations. If you look at Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek, they have much more funding that Northgate and have a Gifted Program. The Walnut Creek School District is not bleeding like MDUSD due to lower scores in poorer areas (MDUSD covers Pittsburg, West Pittsburg, Antioch) draining the system and causing Northgate to suffer.

Ruth Carver may be the only hope in saving Northgate but I have a hunch the Walnut Creek residents in the Walnut Creek School District will oppose her.
0 votes
Dayna Wilson, Agent, Walnut Creek, CA
Thu Sep 20, 2012
Just back from a Parent Faculty Club meeting...there is so much support for these schools with funds coming from the parents and like-kind gifting, fund-raising in the community. It's true we've lost some great teachers to the other districts, but the new ones are really excited to be here. Not sure what your purpose of the above was, but this is an AWESOME place to live and raise families. And, yes, the schools help sustain our property values. I would be pleased to further discuss the schools, boundaries, etc. off-line. I was raisied in the Lamorinda Schools and know that there are families there transferring OUT for interesting reasons. Every family is looking for something different and every child needs different environments to thrive. All the best as you decide where you want to live; I suggest you take another look @ The Creek! No town is perfect, no school district has all the answers, but we are all working together to make it better.
0 votes
The Mt. Diable School District (Northgate High) had to eliminate the "Gifted Program" (GATE) due to lack of funds.
Flag Fri Sep 21, 2012
Suzanne Look…, Agent, Lafayette, CA
Wed Sep 19, 2012
Hi,

As Dayna has illustrated, scores alone do not measure the quality of education available for each individual child. Having said that, we do know that the Walnut Creek and Lamorinda school districts have 12 years of high performing schools. In this county those addresses command at least a 20% higher premium in housing costs.

Are you interested in moving to this area?

Regards,
Suzanne Looker, http://www.suzannelooker.com
0 votes
Suzanne Look…, Agent, Lafayette, CA
Wed Sep 19, 2012
Hi,

As Dayna has illustrated, scores alone do not measure the quality of education available for each individual child. Having said that, we do know that the Walnut Creek and Lamorinda school districts have 12 years of high performing schools. In this county those addresses command at least a 20% higher premium in housing costs.

Are you interested in moving to this area?

Regards,
Suzanne Looker, http://www.suzannelooker.com
0 votes
Dayna Wilson, Agent, Walnut Creek, CA
Wed Sep 19, 2012
That is why non-profit fund-raising groups like P.E.A.K. which I am a board member for, are so vitally importantt. My children are in these fine schools and are receiving an excellent eduation. They are A students, not sure what else I could ask for? Also have the ability to be involved in community volunteering, Mock Trial, and sports. Their older friends are going to colleges such as CAL, Stanford and the Ivy League schools.

A portion of a letter from the Northgate Principal sent earlier this week:
...What really matters? Northgate students have always done fairly well on test scores, and our students are accepted at some of the finest schools in the world. These are measures, by which the outside world often judges a school, but they tell us little about the quality of the thinking, or tasks the students are doing every day in every class. I believe the measure of an excellent school is the ability of the teacher to challenge the student to think and reflect on the curriculum, growing in their mastery of the subject matter, and using this mastery to solve problems in authentic or "real world" settings. My goal at Northgate is to develop a rich academic program filled with "authentic" learning experiences that will challenge students to do more than just memorize facts; they will use these facts to solve problems in the discipline of study. We are doing this both in classrooms and with the introduction of new programs, some of these include:

Sports medicine program
Mock Congress for all Senior students
Senior Project which includes a rigorous research paper and a public presentation of the project
Robotics program with students building a robot and competing in the National Robotics tournament
Mock Trial teams competing in the Contra Costa Mock Trial tournament
Model United Nations team competing in numerous MUN tournaments
All of our performing arts programs and athletic teams
Engineering Academy
Veterinary Science
Art and Design Academy
0 votes
How does Northgate HS compare with the other Walnut Creek HS, Las Lomas High, which is in the Acalanes School District, not the Mt. Diablo school district?
Flag Wed Sep 19, 2012
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