Bullis Tests Highest in State Among Charters, Tops Other Los Altos Schools

Bullis Charter School was loud and proud about its state Academic Performance Index scores this week, declaring itself the top-performing school in the Los Altos School District.

With a rating of 984 on a scale of 200 to 1,000, the school of 460-plus students fell just shy of the 988 mark earned in 2010, but its first-ever seventh grade scored a perfect 1,000. Bullis Charter ranked as the highest-performing charter elementary school and among the top 1 percent of all public schools in California.

But the school’s principal, Wanny Hersey, said repeatedly Thursday that high test scores are not the school’s goal.

“One of our beliefs is that we won’t teach to the test,” Hersey said. “We look very closely at individual students and work on them to become much more well-rounded.”

In fact, she planned her back-to-school speech for parents on Thursday night to be about “all the things you cannot measure in a test score,” Hersey said.

As an example, Hersey said students who need to improve their writing are encouraged to accomplish that in different ways, from penning letters to soldiers in Iraq to running for student council and writing speeches.

“Then they understand that there’s a connectedness to what they’re learning in the classroom and it applies to the real world,” she said.

“Because they’re effective note-takers and understand information … that’s how they’re going to be able to score well. There are many ways to do it, but we know where our kids are and we’re very lucky we have kids who are eager to learn.”

A statement released by the school’s public relations firm, Larson Communications, touted Bullis as “the highest-performing school in LASD despite operating with sufficiently less funding.”

The statement goes on to cite a 2011 report by EdTec that says Bullis students receive $3,739 less in funding per pupil than other Los Altos School District students, and that number will increase to about $4,300 after a Los Altos parcel tax was approved in May.

For the most part, district schools all ranked higher than 960, with the exception of Santa Rita Elementary and Springer Elementary, which scored 957 and 946, respectively.

Moreover, two schools — Covington Elementary and Oak Avenue — came in at 983, just one point behind Bullis Charter School.

Though Bullis and the district’s relations have been somewhat contentious in past years — replete with funding arguments and lawsuits over facilities — district officials offered their praises Thursday.

“I won’t even get into the semantics of what they’re suggesting,” said Bill Cooper, president of the district’s board of trustees. “I congratulate them for their results and I certainly tip my hat to them.”

“I think when you are in the 950 range and above, those scores are negligible,” district Superintendent Jeff Baier said.

All schools in the district beat the state’s elementary school average of 808 and the junior high average of 778.

State tests in English, math, science and history determine a school’s API score.