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Districts conquer state’s API goal

Posted: September 15, 2009 11:22 p.m.
Updated: September 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

All five of Santa Clarita Valley's school districts overall exceeded the state goal and posted a gain in Academic Performance Index (API) scores by at least 10 points, according to figures released Tuesday.

The four elementary school districts and one high school district performed above the statewide goal of 800, and, in some cases, school scores soared to the high 900s, according to California Department of Education figures.

Some districts attributed the increase to improved academic intervention programs, but most acknowledged special-needs students and English-language learners need additional attention.

API scores are calculated using students' performance on statewide assessments.

These points are then averaged across all students and all tests statewide, resulting in the school's or district's API. The scores can range from 200 to 1000.

Along with the API scores, the state released the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) report, which shows whether students are scoring at the proficient level or above on state assessments.

Saugus Union School District
Saugus Union saw its API increase from 849 to 861, a sign that various intervention programs and activities that target struggling students are working, said Joan Lucid, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

"In some schools, it's made a huge difference," she said.

The district intends to look at subgroups, which include special needs and English-language learners, to target their needs, Lucid said.

Cedarcreek Elementary is the only Saugus Union school, which includes 15 elementary schools total, that didn't hit the 800 mark.

While the school's API score rose from 733 to this year's 757, Lucid is hopeful that the school will continue to improve its index.

"They will get there," Lucid said. "They're on the right track."

Still, Lucid credits the school's efforts so far for the 24-point increase.

"We are so proud of them. They worked very hard," Lucid said.

Similarly, schools like Emblem saw a jump in its API score from 822 to 877.

Saugus Union met 35 of 37 AYP criteria.

Newhall School District
Newhall School District's API score jumped from 879 in 2008 to 890 this year, a 11-point difference.

The district has seen a steady increase in its API score for the last six years and the district is once again the highest ranking school district in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Stevenson Ranch Elementary School posted a score of 958, making it the highest-scoring elementary school in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Newhall has been training teachers in a writing program for the last six years.

"Writing is such a powerful skill that it affects every other aspect of achievement and we are seeing the results," said Nancy Copley, assistant superintendent of instruction. "We have also been concentrating on the academic needs of English-language learners and training teachers in effective instructional methods for these students. Our teachers have effective instructional techniques and work very hard, at every site, to take all children to their highest potential. The API is a validation of their efforts."

Every Newhall district school exceeds the state's goal of an API score of 800. Four school, Stevenson Ranch, Valencia Valley, Oak Hills, and Pico Canyon elementary schools, have APIs that exceed 900 on the state's 1000 point scale. Oak Hills School moved its score 28 points to 933. Valencia Valley showed a 23 point gain this year, rising to 929. McGrath increased its score by 20 points moving to 857 this year. Newhall made a 22 point gain and now has an API of 814.

Newhall School District maintains a strong API score especially as 25 percent of the students have limited English skills.

"It is a huge challenge to ensure that certain groups, especially those with limited English skills or those living below the poverty line, reach proficiency in the required numbers," said Mike McGrath, board president. "The fact that we continue to reach overall State goals, even with large numbers of students who, by definition, should not be proficient because of their language limitations, is a tribute to our hard working teachers and effective principals."

Newhall School District reached its Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks by meeting 37 of the 37 criteria.

Sulphur Springs School District
Sulphur Springs School District's score hit 824, a 12-point increase from 2008.

Superintendent Robert Nolet credits the district's goal of improving reading comprehension in students for the gain in points.

Only two schools, Canyon Springs and Mint Canyon, fell below the statewide goal of 800.

Even though the schools didn't hit the 800 mark, Nolet said the two scores have been on the increase in the last couple of years.
"They are moving in the right direction," Nolet said.

The next step is working more with English-language learners, he said.

"We want to close that achievement gap and move all of our sites to 800," he said.

Among the nine schools, Leona Cox posted a significant gain by lifting its 2008 score of 787 to 821, a 34-point difference.

Sulphur Springs met 34 of the 37 AYP criteria.

Castaic Union School District
All four of Castaic Union's schools reached the 800-mark for the first time and the district marked a 10-point increase.

"We continue to use research-based strategies that are promoting growth," said Janene Maxon, assistant superintendent of educational services.

The district has implemented professional learning communities across all of the schools, Maxon said.

The communities allow teachers and administrators to meet frequently to discuss data and analyze student needs, she said.
Castaic Union was able to meet 29 of the 37 AYP criteria.

William S. Hart Union High School District
The Hart district's API score grew 11 points from 2008 to reach 818. Eleven of the district's 17 schools exceeded the state goal of 800 and almost every school noted growth over last year's API score.

The Hart district's 818 API score makes it number one in the state among union high school districts with 15,000 or more students, according to the William S. Hart Union High School District.

"Our students have shown excellent growth overall, and our subgroups have also shown progress, but we can do even more," said David LeBarron, director of curriculum and assessment.

This year's score exceeds the district's own goal of 814, LeBarron said.

"(The score of) 818 is the result of a lot of people's hard work," LeBarron said.

LeBarron credits the district's efforts to teach all students.

"Our goal is not to raise the API score," LeBarron said. "Our goal is to make sure we educate our students well."

The Hart district's special education faculty and staff have developed strong intervention programs and the district has aligned textbooks and curriculum to the state standards in special education classes to better serve students with special needs.

The district's highest API was achieved by Early College High School, which scored an API of 912. Early College High School is now merged with Academy of the Canyons, which has an API score of 879.

La Mesa and Sierra Vista junior high and Golden Valley high schools made the most gains in API scores this year, raising their scores by 23 points or more from last year. Bowman High School's index decreased from last year to 669 API, however, district officials are questioning the accuracy of the score, LeBarron said.

The Hart district met 35 of 38 AYP criteria, missing only in the students with disabilities subgroup, for both English-language arts and math and for English learners in English-language arts.


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