BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first time, most of California's public schools have met or exceeded the goal the state set for academic achievement on a closely watched index, results of which were released today.
About 53 percent of the state's schools scored at or above the target of 800 on the Academic Performance Index, compared with about a quarter -- or 68 -- of Kern County's 265 schools.
TOP 5 API DISTRICT AVERAGES IN KERN
Fruitvale School District864
Norris School District853
Pond Union Elementary School District848
Rosedale Union School District836
Maple Elementary School District810
TOP 10 API*
Ronald Reagan Elementary School (Panama-Buena Vista Union School District)912
Downtown Elementary School (Bakersfield City School District)905
William B. Bimat Elementary School (Norris School District)889
Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School (BCSD)875
Discovery Elementary School (Fruitvale School District)888
W.A. Kendrick Elementary School (Greenfield Union School District)881
Norris Elementary School (Norris)873
Endeavor Elementary School (Fruitvale)872
Franklin Elementary School (BCSD)870
American Elementary School (Rosedale Union School District)869
TOP 5 API SCHOOL DROPS (FROM 2011 TO 2012)
Robert P. Ulrich Elementary School (Mojave Unified School District)698 -62
Louise Sandrini Elementary School (Panama-Buena Vista)731 -50
Evergreen Elementary School (BCSD)715 -42
California City Middle School (Mojave)655 -39
Hacienda Elementary School (Mojave)716 -33 (tied fifth)
Tropico Middle School (Southern Kern Unified School District)688 -33 (tied fifth)
TOP 5 API SCHOOL GAINS (FROM 2011 TO 2012)
Ramon Garza Elementary School (BCSD)754 62
McFarland Middle School (McFarland Unified School District) 724 48 (tied second)
Pond Elementary School (Pond Union Elementary School District) 848 48 (tied second)
Roosevelt Elementary School (Taft City Schools)820 48 (tied second)
Emerson Middle School (BCSD)662 46 (tied third)
Beardsley Jr. High School (Beardsley School District)804 46 (tied third)
Leo G. Pauly Elementary School (BCSD)670 41 (tied fourth)
Chipman Jr. High School (BCSD) 79941 (tied fourth)
Pierce Elementary School (Sierra Sands Unified School district) 857 40
MET ADEQUATE YEARLY PROGRESS GOALS
Kern County schools that met all federal Adequate Yearly Progress components (math, English, academic performance index and graduation rate goals) with their API score.
Discovery Elementary School (Fruitvale) 888
W.A. Kendrick Elementary School (Greenfield)881
Olive Drive Elementary School (Norris) 873
Faller Elementary School (Sierra Sands)854
Pond Elementary School (Pond)848
San Lauren Elementary School (Beardsley)848
Inyokern Elementary School (Sierra Sands)841
Cesar E. Chavez High School (Delano Joint Union High School District) 839
Harding Elementary School (BCSD) 835
Bill L. Williams Elementary School (Panama-Buena) 817
Murray Middle School (Sierra Sands)808
Beardsley Jr. High School (Beardsley) 804
John L. Pruett Elementary School (Wasco Union Elementary School District)801
Voorthies Elementary School (BCSD)799
Chipman Junior High School (BCSD)799
General Shafter Elementary School (General Shafter School District)797
Edison Middle School (Edison Elementary School District)786
A.M. Thomas Middle School (Lost Hills Union Elementary School District)776
William Penn Elementary School (BCSD)767
Roosevelt Elementary School (BCSD) 756
Ramon Garza Elementary School (BCSD)754
Longfellow Elementary School (BCSD)732
Beardsley Elementary School (Beardsley)719
California City High School (Mojave)693
Blake Elementary School (Blake School District)N/A
Caliente Elementary School (Caliente Union School District)N/A
Rand Elementary School (Sierra Sands)N/A
*Does not include small schools or continuation schools because statistics based on small numbers of students are less reliable, according to the California Department of Education.
Several of these schools received high API scores, including Belridge Elementary School (Belridge School District) 838; Pine Mountain Learning Center (El Tejon Unified School District) 889; Kernville Elementary School (Kernville Union Elementary School District) 835; McKittrick Elementary School (McKittrick Elementary School District) 852; and Midway Elementary School (Midway Elementary School District) 835.
Source: California Department of Education
The index ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000. The API is a composite score that combines information across grade levels and subjects. Any school scoring 799 or below fails to meet the state's identified performance goal.
The Fruitvale School District in northwest Bakersfield led Kern County with an index score of 864.
"We're obviously ecstatic about the results," said Assistant Superintendent Matt Torres, who attributed the district's success to a culture of cooperation between administrators, parents, students and teachers. "We're proud of our teachers, especially, for their willingness to share techniques for what works in the classroom, and being open to hearing suggestions and willing to experiment."
The K-8 Buttonwillow Union School District, with a score of 662, was the lowest of the major local districts excluding the Kern County Office of Education, which has a large number of special-education students and youth involved in the Kern County Juvenile Court system.
Buttonwillow Superintendent J. Stuart Packard, who only recently joined the district, noted that 68 percent of his students are English learners, but there still was 0.9 percent improvement over 2011.
"We increased in all of our subgroups, including English learners. All of them rose," he said.
Packard added that the district hired four new teachers this year, and has initiated new training programs.
"We're just now getting a chance to implement our changes," he said.
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson was excited to see more than half of the state's schools achieving their goal, noting that 10 years ago only 20 percent of California schools were able to do so.
The state's schools still mostly fell short of the minimum standard established in the federal government's No Child Left Behind program, however. California and more than half of the nation's other states are in the process of pursuing waivers from key provisions of that mandate from the U.S. Department of Education.
Among other things, the bill President George W. Bush signed into law in 2002 established deadlines for making students proficient in state testing, and strengthened qualifications required to teach core subjects.
Kern County schools have been inching toward the state's benchmark little by little for about five years now, said Desiree Von Flue, division administrator for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office.
"We're seeing consistent and steady growth toward that 800 target," she said.
Five years ago, only 33 schools scored an 800 or higher, compared with 56 last year and 68 this year.
Results were less dramatic in the greater Bakersfield area.
Districts in the greater Bakersfield area were largely flat year-over-year. Scores for the Bakersfield City School District (731), Fruitvale School District( 864), Greenfield Union School District (774), Rosedale Union School District (836) and Kern High School District (730) all rose very slightly.
Panama-Buena Vista Union School District dipped less than 1 percent to 797, costing it last year's spot above the coveted 800 mark.
It's normal for index scores to jump around a little bit from year to year, said David Onsum, the district's research and evaluation services director. Even in good years, he said, the district tweaks things here and there with an eye toward improvement. This year, obviously, that scrutiny will be more intense.
"These numbers are not particularly helpful to really identify what the factors are that are contributing to improvement or lack of growth," he said. "It's like taking your temperature. You know you have a fever, but that doesn't tell you what organ systems may be compromised or what virus or bacteria may be a problem. It's like a red flag. It tells us to look a little deeper to try to figure out what's going on."
The challenge is particularly daunting in light of a state budget crisis that has seen payments to local districts slashed for several years running, Von Flue said. Still more cuts are looming if voters fail to pass one of two statewide measures on the November ballot designed to stop the bleeding.
That's why a lot of districts are establishing "professional learning communities," setting aside regular time for teachers to share best practices, attend training sessions and learn how to take advantage of new technologies that zero in on student weaknesses and offer strategies for addressing them.
"Most of the time that doesn't cost the district any money," said Kern High School District spokesman John Teves, who credited such meetings with his district's improvement. "It just requires people to sit down and communicate."