Just four years ago, San Gabriel High School was the black sheep of the Alhambra Unified School District, scoring double digits below Alhambra High and Mark Keppel on standardized tests. Then it got a new principal and things began to change.
Since 2007, San Gabriel High School has increased its base API score by an impressive 111 points. And this year, just two points below the statewide goal of 800, SGHS surpassed Alhambra High as the second-highest performing public high school in the district.
“It’s a remarkable leap,” said Adele Andrade-Stadler, president of AUSD. “San Gabriel High School has gone from a regular high school to a school that is much more competitive.”
San Gabriel High School’s success can be largely attributed to principal Jim Schofield. The former assistant principal at Mark Keppel High School worked with faculty and staff to implement a number of new programs that encouraged students to improve their testing scores.
“We got ourselves a good principal,” said Andrade-Stadler. “It’s remarkable how he has taken the school under his wing; it’s his second home. Students are responding to the positive atmosphere where they know that faculty and staff care about their academic success.”
After taking over as principal four years ago, Schofield sent home test score notification packets with each student. The packets included each student’s CST score sheets from the past three years and asked students and their parents to create score goals for upcoming CST or California High School Exit Exam tests.
“There are a lot of factors built in to creating test awareness,” said Schofield. “We recognize and honor students who have been successful and we also send each student home with an individual score sheet packet.”
To recognize student achievement, SGHS students who improved their scores by a significant amount could attend a campus “starbeque,” complete with free cheeseburgers and hot dogs. Students who continued to perform in the advanced level for two consecutive years were also thrown a “starbeque.”
In addition to incentives and keeping students aware, SGHS also re-focused its professional development programs for faculty and staff. The high school spotlighted improving its instruction training for students that are English-language learners and expanded counseling hours for students who needed additional attention.
Perhaps, Schofield’s biggest change was within the high school’s mathematics program, condensing the curriculum from a two-year algebra course to a one-year course just three years ago.
“We did see a drop in math scores after the first year we implemented the new curriculum,” said Schofield. “But over the past two years we have seen the proficiency rates gradually increase.”
Despite the looming presence of an achievement gap, San Gabriel High’s strongest academic gains have been made by Latino students.
“Latino students continue to not score as high as their Asian counterparts,” said Schofield. “However, our scores this year show we are slowly closing in on the gap. We reduced the gap by 30 points.”
While the school has increased it’s own base API score by 111 points over the last four years, Latino student achievement has not gone unnoticed. Latino students have increased their own base API score 125 points since 2007.
“It’s incredible anytime we see our Latino students improving,” said Andrade-Stadler. “San Gabriel High is clearly chipping away at the achievement gap.”
According to the school’s 2011 API report, Asian students, which make up 58 percent of the school’s population, had increased their API score by 21 points to an 855 and Latino students, 39 percent, had increased their score by 51 points to a 700.
As a means of closing in on the gap, Schofield is bringing in Dr. Roberta Espinoza from Cal State Fullerton. Espinoza will work with the school’s faculty and staff to understand Latino student achievement.
Another reason why scores have increased could be due to Schofield's own school spirit driven incentives.
“This year since we raised the score by 38 points, I promised the students they could vote and pick my hairstyle,” said the principal. “If we had raised our score by two more points to an 800, I would have had to live on the roof for 24 hours.”