Taking a break between congratulatory calls to school principals, Novato Unified School District Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said she couldn't be more pleased with the Academic Performance Index scores that were released Thursday morning.
The district as a whole recorded an 839, it's best average ever.
"I'm really proud," Cunningham said, "and I'm calling each principal say how much we all appreciate their work."
The API reports indicate academic progress by districts and schools over time. The state of California has an expectation that all schools will reach an API score of 800, but NUSD schools all had at least an 840 for the 2011-12 school year.
Cunningham said the progress at Loma Verde Elementary School and Lu Sutton Elementary School were of particular note. Lu Sutton jumped from 832 the previous year to 853, and Loma Verde went from 862 to 871 despite an increasing number of kids categorized as socio-economically challenged and English learners.
"It's instructional leadership at its best," Cunningham said. "(Principal) Eileen Smith and her staff should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for their efforts there."
Lu Sutton Principal Bonnie Barron said in a district release, “I’m so proud of the work our teachers are doing with the children of Novato, continually striving to provide high levels of learning opportunities in our classrooms."
At the elementary school level, the scores from highest to lowest were as follows: Rancho 958; Novato Charter 939; Pleasant Valley 923; San Ramon 876; Loma Verde 871; Lu Sutton 853; Olive 849; Hamilton Meadow Park 845; Lynwood 842. All but Hamilton Meadow Park experienced increases from last year.
Rancho's API score was second in all of Marin, only behind Bel Aire in Tiburon (969). "That's just good teaching," Cunningham said.
At the high school level, Novato High went from 802 to 817 and San Marin slipped from 799 to 797. There were huge increases in scores at San Marin's Plus program and the Nova independent study program and a slight dip at Marin Oaks.
There were considerable challenges at the middle school level with the closure of Hill Middle School and the consolidation of middle schoolers at San Jose, Sinaloa and Hamilton Meadow Park. Sinaloa's score took a significant dive, from 870 to 846. San Jose scored 841; the school did not have a valid 2011 Base API a year ago.
According to the NUSD release, the federal Adequate Yearly Progress criteria focus primarily on the percent of proficient scores in English Language Arts and mathematics. The difference between API and AYP measurements is that API measures progress over time and AYP measures the percent of student proficiency at a given time.
Vicki Romero, the district's director of curriculum and instruction, said established targets have sharply increased under the federal No Child Left Behind act "so that it is nearly impossible for schools receiving Title I funds to meet this goal in all areas. Even though schools have continued to raise API scores, it is virtually impossible for schools to also meet the AYP targets in all areas.
For instance, Olive increased its API score from 809 in 2009 to 849 in 2012 yet has just been designated a program-improvement school under AYP, Romero said.
Looking at the ethnic breakdown, black students in Novato made the biggest gain — 40 points higher (684 to 724) over a year ago. Although students of Asian descent had the highest score at 927, that group was the only one to show a decrease.
Statewide, the 2012 scores marked the first time a majority of California public schools met or surpassed the statewide target of academic achievement, according to Superintendent Tom Torlakson. After a decade of steady growth, the average score of all schools went up 4 percentage points to an API score of 788 and 53 percent of schools reached 800, he said. API scores range from 200 to 1,000.
“We’ve set a high bar for schools and they have more than met the challenge, despite the enormous obstacles that years of budget cuts have put in their way,” Torlakson said in a release from the California Department of Education. “The incredible efforts of teachers, administrators, school employees, parents, and students should serve as an inspiration to us all. While there’s still more work to do, California’s schools have earned a vote of confidence.”
African American students and students with disabilities realized the largest gains statewide with an increase of 14 points for each student group, to 710 and 607, respectively. Latino students and English Learners also posted strong gains, with Latinos adding 11 points to 740 and English Learners adding 10 points to 716. Asian and white students made smaller gains of 7 and 8 points respectively, but still have the highest API totals among student groups of 905 and 853 respectively.