The release of Academic Performance Index (API) scores today by the California Department of Education were cause for celebration at the William S. Hart High School District, which placed first in the state for districts with 15,000 or more students. Also celebrating are officials of the Newhall School District, which is once again the highest ranking school district in the Santa Clarita Valley.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell also released federal accountability or Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and Program Improvement scores. Both the API and AYP are based upon statewide assessment results from the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program and from the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE).
The Hart District grew 11 points in the API exceeding the state's goal of 800 points with an overall district score of 818. Eleven of the district's 17 schools also exceeded the state goal and almost every school noted significant growth over last year's API score.
In the Newhall District, four of their schools have APIs that exceed 900 on the state's 1000-point scale and none fall below the goal score of 800.
"We have been training teachers in a coherent writing program for 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 for the Newhall district.
The current API in Newhall is an accomplishment given the challenge of having 25 percent of the student population considered limited in English skills, as well as some of the highest level of students living in poverty in the Santa Clarita Valley.
Each district in the Santa Clarita Valley improved an average of 11-12 points, which is in line with statewide trends, according to the Department of Education.
API scores are calculated by converting a student's performance on statewide assessments across multiple content areas into points. These points are then averaged across all students and all tests for their schools and district, resulting in the school's or district's API. API scores can range from 200 to 1000 with scores above 800 being the goal for all schools and districts.
Academic Performance Indexes are also calculated for subgroups-ethnic minorities, economic disadvantaged, English learners and students with disabilities-which account for the state's much-discussed "achievement gap." All subgroups in the Hart District showed growth.
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 earned a very impressive API of 879.
According to O'Connell, 42 percent of all California schools are now at or above the overall statewide target API of 800, up six percentage points from the year before. This includes 48 percent of elementary schools, 36 percent of middle schools and 21 percent of high schools.
Hart district was also pleased with its AYP scores, which are used to evaluate schools' progress toward meeting the No Child Left Behind goal that 100 percent of students score Proficient or better in English/language arts (ELA) and math by 2014.
The Hart District met 35 of 38 AYP criteria, missing only in the students with disabilities subgroup, for both ELA and math and for English learners in ELA. Individual schools which missed their AYP targets also did so because of scores for students with disabilities and, in a few cases, for English learners, Hispanic or economically disadvantaged subgroups.
"Our students have shown excellent growth overall, and our subgroups have also shown progress, but we can do even more," said Dave LeBarron, director of curriculum and assessment. He noted that the 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 in a drive to better serve students with special needs.
The new percent proficient targets, which raise gradually to keep students on course to achieve 100 percent, have become very challenging, especially for students with disabilities and English learners, and most schools across the state are expected to miss their AYP targets in these categories.
LeBarron noted that the growth in this year's API scores and the achievement of almost all of the district's AYP targets did not happen automatically. "It was the result of our teachers, support staff and administrators working very hard to assess, evaluate and improve their instruction and our students' performance," he explained. "Their work, combined with the support we receive from our parents and community, is the core of a school culture that is focused on meeting the academic needs of all of its students."
The state API and federal AYP results report progress in different ways. The state API is an index model that measures year-to-year improvement and provides incentives to educators to focus on students at all performance levels. Schools receive more API points for moving students up from the lowest performance levels. In contrast, the federal AYP system focuses solely on whether or not students are scoring at the proficient level or above on state assessments.
"We learn different things from the state and federal measures; however, the two systems of accountability can often send conflicting messages to educators and parents," O'Connell said. "While we can never abandon the goal of proficiency for all students, I continue to support efforts to create a single accountability system for California that combines the best of the state and federal systems in order to reduce confusion and still push schools to help all students improve."
A listing of the schools and API scores follow:
958 Stevenson Ranch/Newhall
933 Oak Hills/Newhall
929 Valencia Valley/Newhall
909 Pico Canyon/Newhall
902 Tesoro del Valle/Saugus
894 North Park/Saugus
893 Golden Oak/Sulphur Springs
891 Charles Helmers/Saugus
864 Plum Canyon/Saugus
863 Sulphur Springs/Sulphur Springs
860 Wiley Canyon/Newhall
855 Santa Clarita/Saugus
853 James Foster/Saugus
851 Old Orchard/Newhall
850 Bouquet Canyon/Saugus
848 Northlake Hills/Castaic
840 Fair Oaks Ranch/Sulphur Springs
835 Mitchell/Sulphur Springs
832 Pinetree/Sulphur Springs
826 Skyblue Mesa/Saugus
821 Leona Cox/Sulphur Springs
804 Valley View/Sulphur Springs
801 Live Oaks/Castaic
800 Rio Vista/Saugus
774 Mint Canyon/Sulphur Springs
764 Canyon Springs/Sulphur Springs
Junior High Schools/District
891 Rancho Pico/Hart
871 Rio Norte/Hart
842 Arroyo Seco/Hart
830 Castaic Middle/Castaic
830 Sierra Vista/Hart
806 La Mesa/Hart
High Schools (all Hart District)
912 SCV Early College High
879 Academy of the Canyons
836 West Ranch
746 Golden Valley
682 Opportunities for Learning