Two Silicon Valley elementary schools, Millikin in Santa Clara and Faria in Cupertino, have posted perfect scores on California’s Academic Performance Index. Both are schools of choice that emphasize the basics. The San Jose Mercury News reports:
The difference between these schools and most others is readily apparent. For example, most kindergarten classes look something like a birthday party. Even the well-structured ones contain a lot of activity and movement, and occasional random outbursts of exultation and sorrow and general jabber.
At Millikin Elementary in Santa Clara, Yvette Kamfirouzi’s kindergarten class looks different. The students, instead of sitting cross-legged on the floor, sit quietly at desks in neat rows. Kamfirouzi stands at a whiteboard, explaining how to draw in missing details on the outline of a dog. Although her instructions veer toward the abstract — “Remember, we’re drawing the dog from the side, so it only gets one eye” — the children take dutiful note.
Both schools attract the children of educated, affluent, involved parents.
That means the teachers are faced with a much narrower and more manageable range of student ability than their counterparts at other schools.
At those schools, teachers often divide their classes into smaller groups, according to student ability. The groups then work at different levels, often on their own. The teacher and even other students might help those who are struggling.
Not so at Millikin. According to Principal Melba Rhodes-Stanford, the school’s firm philosophy is to have “the teacher in front, teaching to the whole group.” At Millikin, students are figuratively and literally on the same page.
Parents are expected to buy into that philosophy when they enroll their children. If they are lucky enough to win in the January lottery — last year the school had 260 applications for 60 kindergarten spots — parents and their children are required to sign an agreement before enrolling. Students pledge to be respectful and do their work; parents pledge to support learning at home, and to get their kids to school every day.
Ninety-four percent of Faria students are Asian-American; 81 percent of parents have a graduate education and another 18 percent have a bachelor’s degree. Some 88 percent of students who start without English fluency are fluent by the end of the year. Faria uses “Direct Instruction, an instructional program with fast-paced, often pre-programmed lessons designed to maximize learning time,” the principal writes.
By contrast, Millikin serves the disadvantaged: 59 percent of students are Asian and 33 percent are white; 6 percent qualify for a free lunch and only 88 percent of parents have a college degree, with nearly half those holding just a bachelor’s.
So, yes, these are very easy-to-educate children. But there are plenty of schools in the state in high-income suburban neighborhoods that don’t post perfect test scores.