San Luis Obispo County schools get good grades from the state

Nearly two-thirds of schools meet or exceed achievement standards but educators worry that budget cuts will curtail gains next year, clambert@thetribunenews.comOctober 11, 2012 

About 64 percent of San Luis Obispo County schools are surpassing a state academic achievement benchmark, according to results released Thursday by the California Department of Education.

Forty-eight schools have scores higher than the target of 800 on the Academic Performance Index — and many schools that haven’t reached the target aren’t far behind.

“Overall there’s progress that’s being made,” county schools Superintendent Julian Crocker said. “I think our community should be very pleased and it’s attributable primarily to a strong teaching force.”

Though some schools made large gains, others saw their scores drop from last year — a fact that Crocker attributes in part to budget cuts, which have slashed millions of dollars from the county’s 10 districts in the past few years.

Many districts have cut programs or support staff that could help struggling students improve in English and math. Class sizes have also increased, and these two factors could be showing up in the form of lower test scores, Crocker said.

“I think it’s simply a matter of fewer resources to deal with particularly needy kids,” he said. “If I have more kids in my class I have less time to really address the needs of particularly struggling kids.”

Also, the number of county schools that didn’t meet federal requirements continues to grow as more and more schools slip into the label of “program improvement.”

Part of the reason is that the bar that schools are required to meet has once again been ratcheted up, Crocker said.

“Sooner or later virtually all schools will be in program improvement,” he said.

Statewide, only 35 percent of schools are meeting the federal requirements, which have been criticized as impractical by state education officials.

Still, San Luis Obispo County students continue to perform better than their state counterparts.

For the first time, the majority of California public schools — 53 percent — met the target, state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a news release. The overall API score for all students in the state is 788.

In San Luis Obispo County, the overall API score is 822.

The measurements are based on state tests that students in grades 2 through 11 took last spring and on results from the California High School Exit Examination. The data is used as an indicator of a school’s success by the state.

Several schools made large gains, including Cayucos, Del Mar and Hawthorne elementary schools; and Daniel Lewis and Santa Lucia middle schools.

Of the 48 schools that achieved or surpassed the target goal, seven elementary schools scored 900 or above: Shell Beach, Cayucos, Ocean View, Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter, Bishop’s Peak, Los Ranchos and Teach.

Templeton Elementary School had the largest year-over-year gain with an improvement of 70 API points — yet it’s a bit of an anomaly.

The school only has transitional kindergarten through second-grade students. So, of the school’s 445 students, only about 140 second-graders took the test.

The gain was achieved, Principal Jill Southern said, by putting a concentrated effort toward at-risk students by doing things such as adding a homework club after school.

That program has since been cut because of budget constraints.

“We aren’t able to offer a lot of the things that worked for us last year,” Southern said. “Our goal this year will be to maintain what we did last year.”

In the Lucia Mar district, the county’s largest school district, administrators saw scores drop at more than half of its schools — more than any other district in the county.

Andy Stenson, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum, attributes part of the decrease to budget cuts.

“The amount of help that we’re able to provide kids either before or after school, in summer school or in intervention teachers is not at the level it needs to be at in order for us to see solid growth,” he said.

Five of the nine schools that had lowered scores still came in above the 800 mark.

The district also had some notable achievements, including Grover Heights Elementary’s success in pulling out of program improvement.

Federal standards

The federal No Child Left Behind Act measures a school’s growth in 10 demographic categories, including socioeconomic status, native language, ethnicity and disabilities.

Each year the bar is raised and more schools fail to meet the requirements despite strong academic gains. The 2001 Act requires that nearly all students be academically proficient by 2014.

State educational leaders have long criticized the requirements, calling them unattainable. Torlakson sought a waiver from the requirements last year, but that request is still pending. If a school fails to meet the growth targets for any student group, the school fails the federal standard.

If a school fails for two consecutive years, it becomes a “program improvement” school. To be removed from the list, schools must meet the federal standards for two consecutive years.

Thirty-two schools in San Luis Obispo County are in program improvement, compared with 27 schools on the list last year, and 16 schools on the list two years ago.

Fifty-nine percent of those schools in program improvement have API scores above 800 — up from 44 percent last year.

Crocker said he’s not overly concerned about the schools that are in the fifth year of program improvement, primarily because he thinks the No Child Left Behind metric will be modified when the federal act is reauthorized.

“If we can just maintain where we are now, a more reasonable metric will be in place that will take into account achievement and improvement instead of trying to meet what I kind of think is an arbitrary requirement,” he said.

Find out more

The California Department of Education has a new online tool that parents and the public can use to see how a school is scoring on state standards. The School Quality Snapshot provides school-specific test scores, class-size and graduation rates among other information.

How SLO County schools are progressing

Academic Performance Index scores (on a scale of 200 to 1,000) combine state standardized test scores with California High School Exit Exam results. The federal government then takes the math and English scores to see whether the schools have achieved “adequate yearly progress.” If a school doesn’t progress for two years, it can be put into program-improvement status. Such a designation allows parents to choose other schools for their children and can lead to a possible takeover if the school does not improve. Only Title 1 schools — those that get extra federal funding because they have many low-income families — are subject to the program-improvement requirements.

DISTRICT/School2012 API2011 APIMade API target schoolwideMet API subgroupsMet AYPProgram improvement
Monterey Road Elementary841839YesYesNoNot Title 1
San Benito Elementary814839YesNoNoYear 2 in PI
San Gabriel Elementary818804YesYesNoNot Title 1
Santa Margarita Elementary821823YesYesNoNot Title 1
Santa Rosa Academic Academy802794YesYesNoYear 4 in PI
Atascadero Junior High844840YesNoNoNot Title 1
Fine Arts Academy871839YesYesYesNot Title 1
Atascadero High804796YesNoNoNot Title 1
Small schools
Carrisa Plains Elementary705*742*NoYesNoNot in PI
Creston Elementary779*770*YesYesNoNot in PI
West Mall Alternative 809*765*YesYesNoNot Title 1
ASAM (alternative) schools
Del Rio Continuation High524620*NoYesNoNot in PI
Cayucos Elementary (K-8)906873YesYesYesNot in PI
Cambria Grammar813813YesNoNoNot in PI
Santa Lucia Middle 850825YesYesNoNot Title 1
Coast Union High 795789YesNoYesNot Title 1
Branch Elementary890907YesYesNoNot Title 1
Dana Elementary813816YesNoNoYear 2 in PI
Fairgrove Elementary828821YesYesNoYear 1 in PI
Grover Beach Elementary791826NoNoNoYear 1 in PI
Grover Heights Elementary864846YesYesYesNot in PI
Harloe Elementary 856872YesNoNoNot in PI
Dorothea Lange Elementary822NoYear 4 in PI
Nipomo Elementary 801813YesNoNoYear 5 in PI
Ocean View Elementary900902YesYesYesNot Title 1
Oceano Elementary770771NoNoNoYear 2 in PI
Shell Beach Elementary903897YesYesYesNot Title 1
Judkins Middle833825YesNoNoYear 4 in PI
Mesa Middle785782NoNoNoYear 4 in PI
Paulding Middle855838YesYesNoYear 2 in PI
Arroyo Grande High788798NoNoNoYear 3 in PI
Nipomo High778783NoNoNoYear 2 in PI
ASAM school
Lopez Continuation High621*586*YesYesNoNot in PI
Bauer/Speck Elementary746788NoNoNoYear 4 in PI
Georgia Brown Elementary798786YesYesNoYear 2 in PI
Kermit King Elementary847818YesYesNoYear 1 in PI
Pat Butler Elementary 844836YesYesNoYear 2 in PI
Virginia Peterson Elementary802825YesNoNoYear 1 in PI
Winifred Pifer Elementary814828YesNoNoYear 3 in PI
Daniel Lewis Middle841810YesYesYesYear 3 in PI
Flamson Middle820820YesNoNoYear 5 in PI
Paso Robles High774777NoNoNoYear 4 in PI
Small schools
Independence High606*658*NoYesNoNot in PI
Independent Study Center774*845*NoYesNoNot Title 1
ASAM schools
Liberty High (Continuation)576*572*NoYesYesNot in PI
Pleasant Valley Elementary (K-8)832*825*YesYesNoNot in PI
Baywood Elementary 794809NoNoNoYear 2 in PI
Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter 917909YesYesYesNot Title 1
Bishop’s Peak Elementary 913900YesYesYesNot Title 1
Del Mar Elementary844811YesYesNoYear 2 in PI
Hawthorne Elementary840817YesYesYesYear 2 in PI
Los Ranchos Elementary914917YesYesYesNot Title 1
Monarch Grove Elementary869869YesYesNoYear 1 in PI
Pacheco Elementary856839YesYesNoYear 5 in PI
Sinsheimer Elementary 882866YesYesYesNot Title 1
Smith Elementary828791YesYesNoYear 4 in PI
Teach Elementary975984YesYesYesNot Title 1
Laguna Middle856852YesNoNoNot Title 1
Los Osos Middle821801YesYesNoNot Title 1
Morro Bay High819807YesYesNoNot Title 1
San Luis Obispo High830824YesNoNoNot Title 1
Small schools
San Luis County Special Edu.792*771*N/AN/AYesNot in PI
ASAM schools
SLO County Community471456*NoNoNoYear 5 in PI
Cappy Culver831810YesYesNoNot in PI
Lillian Larsen Elementary (K-8)759751YesYesNoYear 5 in PI
Parkfield Elementary791*N/AN/AN/AYesNot Title 1
Shandon Elementary778752YesYesYesYear 1 in PI
Shandon High 695*661*YesYesYesNot in PI
Templeton Elementary874804YesYesYesNot in PI
Vineyard Elementary (3-5)870863YesNoYesNot in PI
Templeton Middle 889884YesYesNoNot in PI
Templeton High851861YesYesYesNot Title 1
Small schools
Templeton Home806*831*YesYesYesNot Title 1
Templeton Ind. Study High 710*694*YesYesYesNot Title 1
* This API is calculated for a small school or LEA, defined as having between 11 and 99 valid standardized testing and reporting (STAR) program test scores included in the API. The API is asterisked if the school or LEA was small in either 2010 or 2011. APIs based on small numbers of students are less reliable and, therefore, should be carefully interpreted.
‡ A testing irregularity at the school prevented the state from issuing a score for it. The district is working to resolve the issue to make sure it does not happen again.

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