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Stevenson Ranch at No. 1 spot for elementary test scores

Local schools score high on API

Posted: October 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Science teacher Dorraine Petras leads a fourth-grade clasroom discussion on minerals at Stevenson Ranch Elementary School. Science teacher Dorraine Petras leads a fourth-grade clasroom discussion on minerals at Stevenson Ranch Elementary School.
Science teacher Dorraine Petras leads a fourth-grade clasroom discussion on minerals at Stevenson Ranch Elementary School.

The Newhall School District led Santa Clarita Valley elementary school districts on statewide standardized test scores released Thursday.

In addition, one of Newhall’s schools, Stevenson Ranch Elementary School, earned the top individual elementary school scores in the Santa Clarita Valley with a total number of 982 out of 1,000 possible.

Stevenson Ranch also earned a National Blue Ribbon Award, it was announced this week. Blue Ribbon schools receive a federal distinction as the highest-achieving schools in a given year.

“This notice is very exciting for the students, teachers, staff and parents,” said Stevenson Ranch Principal Candace Fleece. “The honor underscores their collective dedication to every student’s learning and the remarkable skill of the teaching staff. It is a tribute to the entire community.”

Academic Performance Index scores are based on students’ standardized testing results and ranked on a scale on 200 to 1,000. The tests are administered in June; the scores were released by the California Department of Education on Thursday.

Among other Santa Clarita Valley elementary school districts, Saugus Union School District’s API scores rose 14 points to 890. At Sulphur Springs School District, APIs rose 12 points to 844.

Castaic Union School District saw a four-point decline to 839 from last year’s score.


Newhall’s districtwide Academic Performance Index increased from 903 to 906. Every school in the Newhall district passed the state target of 800.

Newhall district’s schools have a higher-than-average percentage of English-language learners — approximately 30 percent — and many of those students are concentrated in Newhall, Peachland and Old Orchard, according to enrollment figures.

English-language learners have difficulty on standardized tests, Superintendent Marc Winger said, but they are among the district’s highest priorities.

“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,” Winger said.

“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.”

Castaic Union

Districtwide, Castaic Union saw a four-point dip; its score dropped from 843 to an 839.

The district has been scrutinizing its four sites since the state released the initial batch of standardized test scores in September, which indicated a slight slip.

The state’s Academic Performance Index is based not only on the state’s standardized testing, but also how much a school improves its students’ proficiency in various subjects. The first round of tests alerted officials to the small decline.

“Two of our schools did decline,” said Janene Maxon, assistant superintendent of educational services for the four-school district.

“We’ve been dissecting and looking at prior students’ scores and trying to look for trends in grade-level achievement,” Maxon said.

Castaic Union includes three elementary schools, as well as Castaic Middle School.

The biggest positive was the payoff officials saw from teachers’ increased focus on writing instruction, Maxon said. More than 90 percent of fourth- and seventh-graders scored above proficient on the writing portion.

The state tests only students at these grade levels in writing.

“We’re hoping with our (intervention programs) being implemented to all the sites, we’re going to boost student skills in the language arts, as well as math, where we saw a dip,” Maxon said.

Saugus Union

For Saugus Union, the rise in API scores has further validated its “Brain Based Direct Instruction.” STAR testing scores also showed a widespread hike in scores.

The so-called brain-based technique, a movement pioneered locally by the district over the last few years, is now being looked at by schools in the Sulphur Springs and William S. Hart Union districts.

Saugus’ districtwide API of 890 was second of the four local elementary school local districts. All but one school in the Saugus elementary district either stayed above 800 or saw an API increase.

Cedarcreek is the only school that did not improve or stay neutral. Its score dipped from 845 to 825.

Bridgeport led the way in achievement with a score of 942, which was a 13-point improvement over last year. Tesoro del Valle scored 919, Charles Helmers notched a 923, Mountainview scored 925 and West Creek Academy scored 939.

Sulphur Springs

Sulphur Springs officials reported a 12-point jump in API scores in the Canyon Country and Fair Oaks Ranch-area district, with Golden Oak cracking the 900 mark with a score of 904.

Additionally, Mint Canyon had one of the most impressive improvements of any school in the Santa Clarita Valley, boosting its score from 775 to 814, a 39-point jump.

Kathy Harris, assistant superintendent of instruction for Sulphur Springs, said local schools should operate as professional learning communities that learn from one another, and the large jump couldn’t be pinned on a specific change of programming.

“It’s just the focus of the leadership team. You need to have that all the time,” Harris said. “Are they doing a special program or anything? No. It’s just good, solid teaching.”

Only one school fell short of the state target score of 800, though barely. Canyon Springs raised its score 15 points but missed the goal with a score of 794.

“You can always improve what you’re doing,” Harris said. “The API is a positive measure for students’ achievement, and everyone can always improve, so we have to keep on working.”


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