Stanislaus schools slip on statewide test score index

naustin@modbee.comAugust 29, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin
    E-mail: naustin@modbee.com

— Today, the California Department of Education released 2013 school scores — the Academic Performance Index — showing a statewide slip that mirrors test results announced earlier this month.

Regionally, more schools lost ground than gained. For Stanislaus and southern San Joaquin counties, 54 school posted higher API numbers and 118 were a lower.

The swings were wide this year, possibly reflecting a move away from expiring standards still being tested to teaching the Common Core State Standards, which tests will measure in 2015. More than a dozen schools’ scores plummeted 30 points or more, while others made whopping gains.

Garrison Elementary in Modesto was the standout, gaining 72 points to top the state goal of 800 for schools. Denair High skyrocketed 61 points, moving to 755.

The index averages schools scores for all state tests, giving greater weight to moving the lowest-performing students up than for gains made by high achievers. For high schools, it includes students passing the high school exit exam.

The top score is 1,000, with 800 the goal for all schools. Just under half of schools in the Stanislaus region topped 800 this year. Statewide, 56 percent of elementary schools, 50 percent of middle schools, and 31 percent of high schools now meet that benchmark.

The state scoring system figures into the federal accountability system mandated by No Child Left Behind, a pass/fail measure demanding all students be at grade level by the end of this school year. For spring 2013 tests, about 89 percent of all students had to test as proficient. In this area, only nine regular schools hit all the federal targets.

Statewide, 14 percent out of 9,861 schools passed the higher bar this year, compared to 26 percent last year. That includes alternative education sites, which face different criteria. Local continuation schools and other alternative sites also fared better than neighborhood campuses. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson called the federal criteria unrealistic.

“It is unfortunate that officials in Washington continue to enforce a program they have acknowledged is deeply flawed, and that paints too many high-achieving schools with the same broad brush,” Torlakson said in announcing the scores this morning.

“As an elected official, I’m obliged to comply with the law. But as a teacher, I’ll continue to urge Congress and the administration to get to work, change course, and replace No Child Left Behind with a workable law that fosters rather than hinders the progress California's schools are making,” he said.

We'll have more on this story later tonight.

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