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Public Schools Roll on API Scores; Lu Sutton, Loma Verde Among Stars

Rancho has the highest score in the county among elementary schools, according to the 2012 statistics released Thursday by the state.

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.

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Patty Maher October 11, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Bravo to all of the schools and the district for the increases. Here's a link that summarizes NUSD and the individual schools: http://api.cde.ca.gov/Acnt2012/2012GrthAPIDst.aspx?allcds=21-65417-6113229&c=R. Loma Verde and Lu Sutton should be breaking out the sparkling apple cider and celebrating! I do have to point out, however, that the statement, "...but NUSD schools all had at least an 840 for the 2011-12 school year" is incorrect. It is true for the elementary and middle schools, but it's not true for the high schools. And while Novato High did surpass the state's desired minimum of 800, San Marin just missed it.
Roger October 11, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Patty, thanks for the link to the details. Do you happen to know how many schools in the Novato district are in PI status. There is no major action triggered by PI status, other than kids there can easily get transfers to non-PI schools, correct?
Amy Oclassen October 11, 2012 at 07:04 PM
If you click on the individual schools listed on the CDE page Patty linked to, you have the ability to see their AYP and PI status (brown link bar at the top of the page). You can also see the breakdown of student scores by subgroup on the individual school's page.
Patty Maher October 11, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Roger, the NUSD website has lots of information on the PI status for 2012-13. Schools in PI are Lynwood (year 5), Loma Verde (year 2) and Hamilton (year 2). I won't even pretend to know the ins and outs of PI beyond saying that the longer a school is in PI, the more major the actions become. But definitely take a look at the NUSD site. They have lots of information there. You can access it right on the homepage.
Amy Oclassen October 11, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Actually, it seems Olive entered PI this year, along with Lynwood, Hamilton and Loma Verde. It just shows how this legislation is unfairly stigmatizing arguably successful schools based on an arbitrary end date for a statistically impossible goal.
SM October 12, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Take note... Novato Charter is right up there just behind Rancho's scores... hmmm.. says a lot as we are embarking upon the possibility of a new charter school in the district that follows the exemplary curriculum of Core Technology.
Educate the Community October 12, 2012 at 04:41 PM
It's too bad there aren't enough Hispanic or Socioeconomically Disadvantaged students at the charter to even register scores for those groups like almost every other school in Novato does. Wonder what the scores for that "Exemplary Curriculum" would look like then? Looking at the scores for Whites at Loma Verde (only way to compare since charter doesn't have any other groups), it appears the charter comes in BEHIND Loma Verde. And unlike the Charter, Loma Verde and other schools in Novato embrace and educate all groups in the community, not just an elite subset. Get your facts straight.
Novato Chess Club October 12, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Novato Chess Club Youth Fundraiser: Red Boy Pizza (Ignacio location) October 13, 2012 Posted on August 18, 2012 In partnership with College Dream Team, Novato Chess Club announces our community fundraiser at Red Boy Pizza on October 13, 2012. Support HYA “College Outreach Program”, and chess at San Jose Middle School and Lynwood Elementary for 2012-13. Saint Mary’s College and Cal State University East Bay will serve as our “college outreach” host for the 2012-13 academic year. We are asking for community support of our Novato afterschool chess program beginning October 9th and 10th. The event will be held from 2-6pm, featuring the smooth jazz sounds of local favorite Carl Oser. Donate, dine in, …order a pizza from Red Boy, on October 13, 2012. Support youth chess in Novato schools. We accept: paypal http://haywardyouthacademy.org/news-2/weekly-newsletter/
Novato Chess Club October 12, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Bring your chessboard to Red Boy Pizza tomorrow, enjoying a little jazz, chess, and pizza...support chess afterschool
Novato Chess Club October 12, 2012 at 08:08 PM
http://haywardyouthacademy.org/2012/08/18/novato-chess-club-youth-fundraiser-at-red-boy-pizza/
Will Johnson October 13, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Rancho is head and shoulders above the other schools on their test scores for Hispanic, English Learners and Socioeconomic disadvantaged, each at well over 900. What are they doing right to educate these communities? Or is it that a school of choice (you have to believe most of the kids there old enough to be tested are still legacy from the lottery process) attracts those ethnic and lower socioeconomic families that aspire to higher achievement? Loma's white test scores are awesome, neck and neck with Rancho. But, their test scores for the other sub-groups are barely over 800. We are not a Rancho family, I am actually asking, not trying to put forth an opinion. Truly wondering why there is such a dramatic difference on the sub-groups scores between the two schools.
Will Johnson October 13, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Maybe an interesting thing to look at is the API test scores of Rocklin Academy, which are the charters in that town teaching the Core Knowledge curriculum. That is what the new proposed Charter school will use and a school that I think the Novato school founders used as a model - at least that is where the teachers that spoke at one of the public meetings were from. Rocklin Academy leads that district in scores by a margin (at 954). Of note, while there is candidly not a huge number of EL or Hispanic students at those schools, there is enough to register a score and these groups scored HIGHER than whites. (967, 969 and 952). From what I have read about E.D. Hirsch, who developed this curriculum, it was to help bridge the educational gap of non-white students by making sure they were exposed to several and specific cultural concepts from year to year. Rocklin API is at the following link: http://api.cde.ca.gov/Acnt2012/2012GrthAPIdst.aspx?cYear=&allcds=3175085&cChoice=2012GDst1
Mark Cwirko October 13, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Thanks for the link Patty. There's a lot more detail in there to look at. Congratulations to the school who were able to increase their scores/levels! The only downside appears to be a declining trend from the Elementary to Middle to High School levels, which is consistent with the experiences that I've had with Rancho, Hill and Novato HS over the past 10 years.
Peter Hamilton October 13, 2012 at 03:20 AM
John B, there is something in statistics called hypothesis testing that helps you understand if something is statistically significant. Basic statistisans are taught the rule of thumb,if you have a bell curve(API scores are bell curved) then you generally you need 25 observations to have any statistical meaning. There are more advanced test to test this but the rule of thumb is commonly used. In Rancho's case they have 18 students. The API mean score cannot be trusted, a mean only means something if the group is big enough to have statistical significance. But that doesn't mean there isn't some truth to your hypothesis, just means you can't/shouldn't use the Hispanic sub-group scores to support your hypothesis.
Will Johnson October 13, 2012 at 04:41 AM
I am not a statistician, but I don't think this can be written off as too small a sample size. Rancho has 22 "English Learners" = 930, 26 "Socioeconomically disadvantaged" = 916 and 18 "Hispanic" = 925. So if my math is sound, with 313 total data points, 21% of Rancho's population falls into one of these subcategories with well over 900 score. No matter how you slice it their numbers are strong. It is interesting to ponder why. If it is program or curriculum based, would hope the school/District would share best practices.
Patty Maher October 13, 2012 at 01:29 PM
John B, the research analyst in me can't help but point out that you can't add the three subgroups together. There is a huge overlap among the three categories of "Hispanic," "socioeconomically disadvantaged" and "English Learners." Many of the students fall into all three categories, so it isn't a total of 66 kids. It's probably, at most, about 30. Regardless, yes, still strong showing.
Will Johnson October 13, 2012 at 03:56 PM
So my math and statistics skills are proven inferior and my lack of understanding of API methodology exposed. If the charter school offers remedial statistics I will ask if parents can enroll. :-) But can anyone offer a reasonable hypothesis why Rancho is doing so well against ALL kids? And can anyone offer a counterpoint to how well the Rocklin Academy (teaching the curriculum proposed by the Novato charter) is doing on its test scores for ALL kids? Yes, I get they don't have an overwhelming population of non-white, but enough to be statistically worthy of breaking out as a sub category by the California State statisticians that provide the API report. So, if there are only a small number of disadvantaged kids at a school then they can get any extra attention they need? Should the community be proposing a Spanish language immersion school that would get ELL's the help they need and offer a multi-language education for English speakers? I don't know the answer, but am seriously looking for thoughtful, reasonable discussion on this issue. So, again, what are these schools doing right so that their disadvantaged kids are scoring over 900 and should be replicated?
Educate the Community October 14, 2012 at 09:25 AM
John B, you really need someone to explain the difference to you between having 5% of the student body be economically disadvantaged, English Learners, etc, versus close to 50%? Someone really needs to explain to you why it might be easier to have those 5% do better versus trying to so the same for an entire 50%? Please tell me I don't need to hold your hand through this. Or maybe your are right and there is no difference, then it shouldn't matter what kids are at the school. Whoever comes there will do great, right? Then why the need for a Charter school? Kids can keep going to Rancho and who cares if it has to open it's doors to new population of disadvantaged kids- they will all just outperform everyone, right? So this begs the question. If the Rancho curriculum is so great and can teach any group to excel, and no current Rancho parent is being forced to change schools, why do they feel the need to start a Charter and leave the school and curriculum they already have? (please don't say this isn't being driven mostly by Rancho parents as we all know where MJ and her friends are from).
Roger October 14, 2012 at 04:10 PM
I understand that the district's student body is now 1/3 Hispanic. There is a general fairness feeling that any new Charter should have that same distribution. In later grades though we feel it is fine to have some classrooms split based on ability, such as advanced math classes in middle school. In those rooms it appears fair for example if the advance math class only has say 3% Hispanics. So a equal fair early start is all the we are seeking. Then is GATE at the elementary level too early for such a long-term split treatment that is unfair to Hispanics? Being white, I feel there is way too many Asians in UCs, but it is probably fair because it is based on ability.....the American way.
Tina McMillan October 14, 2012 at 04:40 PM
http://api.cde.ca.gov/Acnt2011/2011GrowthSch.aspx?allcds=21654176113229 Academic Performance Index (API) Report Novato Charter School Schoolwide Score 932 Ethnic Breakdown 4 Black/African American 7 Asian 4 Spanish/Latino 9 Two or more Races 3 Socioeconomically Disadvantaged 3 English Learners 29 Students with Disabilities 146 White 170 Schoolwide students
Will Johnson October 14, 2012 at 05:29 PM
No need to be insulting, Mr. Christian. Sure – it is easier to address special needs for smaller groups. I think I offered that as a possibility. No hand holding necessary, but thanks for your kind offer. Do you honestly believe that the current school situation is working and can’t be improved? Is it possible that the charter might address some of these issues? The impetus for the creation of Core Knowledge was to narrow the achievement gap between demographic groups. Read about ED Hirsch and his concept of “Cultural Literacy.” The charter will offer “Parent University - Kindergarten through Second grade English immersion to provide literacy support to English Language learners and their families.” And as you mentioned in another post, they will offer carpool assistance so that anyone can get to the school wherever it might be located. I believe we are also challenged with how to keep our advanced learners motivated and progressing and that we are currently failing some of our brightest and gifted kids. I think Core Knowledge curriculum has a decent shot at helping on that end of the spectrum as well. I am not a Rancho parent, but no I won’t be surprised if the majority of initial supporters are from Rancho. As awareness for this school increases and people do their own due diligence I think interest will grow. I wish more energy could be expended on innovative approaches to fix the problems we face rather than fighting old grudges.
Tea bags for Liberty October 15, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Rancho School Breakdown Rancho seems to have more diversity than the Charter School above http://api.cde.ca.gov/Acnt2012/2012GrowthSch.aspx?allcds=21654176024582 Black or African American 1 American Indian or Alaska Native 1 Asian 31 Filipino 1 Hispanic or Latino 18 Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 1 White 249 Two or More Races 11 Socioeconomically Disadvantaged 26 English Learners 22 Students with Disabilities 38

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