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District Scores Improve in Key State Index

By Susan Reines and Jorge Casuso

September 2 -- Despite falling just short of the "target" score, the School District improved as a whole on a crucial state performance index and some schools made strong gains, according to a report released Tuesday by the California Department of Education.

The district's overall score on the "Academic Performance Index" (API) improved by 12 points over last year -- from 780 to 792 -- though it fell eight points short of the state target score of 800, according to the report.

Superintendent John Deasy said he was encouraged by the API scores, which can range from 200 to 1,000 and are calculated from scores from two tests given each spring -- the California Standards Tests (CST), which measure students' performances against standards set by the State Board of Education, and the state high school exit exam for seniors.

“We’re very pleased,” Deasy said. “The results demonstrate that the students of the district are well served by teachers and administrators who are absolutely committed to the improvement of achievement for all students.”

Although the improvement posted by the district more or less parallels the growth seen at the county and the state, Deasy said that “an increase in twelve points at the level where SMMUSD operates requires significantly greater effort.”

Most district schools posted gains, with the two high schools, one middle school and five elementary schools showing significant improvements, while six of the district’s 14 schools that participate in the index showed declines, with some posting double-digit drops since 2003.

When it comes to the achievement of students impacted by poverty, the API results show a “sizeable increase” from 647 last year to 679 this year, marking the second consecutive year of dramatic gains for this population of students, according to a district press release announcing the results.

The superintendent -- who has made closing the achievement gap a key goal of the district since his arrival in 2001 -- called the results “remarkable.”

“My concerns are that there is still a pernicious gap between students of poverty” and other students in the district, Deasy said. “But it has started to close dramatically.”

Scores for other impacted subgroups will not be released by the state until October, but the latest results for individual schools were “impressive” and “confirm that the intense and focused commitment by SMMUSD’s talented team of teachers and administrators is succeeding across the district, and yielding tangible result,” the release said.

All Santa Monica and Malibu schools scored APIs above 700, and nine of the fourteen schools that report data have API scores over 800 (the score identified by the state as representative of high levels of achievement), with four of the schools scoring more than 850.

Two schools do not receive API scores: SMASH, which is too small, and Olympic High School, which participates in an alternative model of school accountability.

Malibu High's API crossed the 800-point target by increasing 22 points over its 2003 score to 817, while Santa Monica High's API increased by 25 points for a score of 720.

The API of John Adams Middle School increased 26 points to 762, even though a detailed look at its scores on the California Standards Test revealed sharp drops in some math areas.

Edison Elementary made a remarkable 47-point jump up to 756. Juan Cabrillo, Grant, Point Dume and Roosevelt elementary schools, already some of the district's best performers, all experienced API increases of 14 to 16 points to receive scores far above the 800-point target -- 847 for Cabrillo, 849 for Grant, 912 for Point Dume and 879 for Roosevelt.

Point Dume's API of 912 -- which Deasy called “remarkable” -- was the highest in the district, taking the top score away from Franklin Elementary, which had the highest score last year at 910.

Franklin, one of the district's highest scoring schools overall, received an API score of 892 this year, down 18 points from last year. Another of the district's highest performers, Webster Elementary, dropped ten API points to a score of 870.

Will Rogers Elementary's API score was down by 20 points this year, to 755; McKinley Elementary dropped by nine points to 819 and John Muir Elementary lost three points for a score of 760. Lincoln Middle School lost eight points, bringing its 2004 API to 837.

Six schools had declines, ranging from three to 20 points, although four of those schools remained well above the state’s target score of 800.

Deasy noted that each of the schools that experienced a decline had been growing consistently in previous years.

“The long-term trend indicates steady and outstanding growth; moreover, the district looks forward to each additional piece of data we receive from the state as it helps us refine our efforts to help all students achieve at high levels,” Deasy said.

In addition to the state's API scores, the district received an "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) assessment to determine whether it met the nationwide requirements of George Bush's No Child Left Behind act.

Performance on the CST and graduation rates were high enough to meet the act’s requirements, with the schools and the district as a whole doing remarkably well in terms of progress toward Proficiency, district officials said.

Each of the district’s ten elementary schools and three out of the four comprehensive secondary schools met their AYP targets for proficiency in all areas.

But the district failed to meet the act's participation requirement, apparently because four schools, Juan Cabrillo Elementary, McKinley Elementary, Lincoln Middle and the Santa Monica Alternative School (SMASH) failed to have 95 percent of their students take the CST.

Also, though they did not affect districtwide ratings, three areas of the district did not meet the act's more substantive academic requirements.

Olympic High's graduation rate was 80 percent for the most recent class data available, that of 2002-03, which was 2.8 percent lower than the No Child Left behind Requirement. In 2001-02 the rate was 100 percent.

SMASH failed to fulfill No Child Left Behind because it did not meet the requirement of receiving either a 560 API score or a one-point API improvement. An exact API score was not provided on the state website because of SMASH's small size, even though SMASH had enough "valid scores" for the state to calculate its API.

John Adams did not meet No Child Left Behind because a subset of its student body, students with disabilities, did not meet the percent proficiency requirement on the math section of the California Standards Tests. Only ten percent earned proficient scores; 16 percent was needed.

Information in this article came from reports on the California Department of Education's website, which can be accessed at http://ayp.cde.ca.gov/.

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