San Luis Obispo County students continue to outperform their statewide peers, while holding steady in their academic performance, according to results released Thursday by the state Department of Education.
Forty-eight local schools charted on the Accountability Progress Report have scores higher than the state goal of 800 on the Academic Performance Index, measured on a scale of 200 to 1,000. The same number of schools reached that goal last year.
The remaining schools are close to reaching that goal — many with scores that slipped slightly below the target.
In addition, 94 percent of high school students passed the exit exam in both English and math by the end of their sophomore year.
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“The general movement continues to be good as far as I’m concerned,” said county schools Superintendent Julian Crocker.
The overall API score for all students in California was 789, a two-point drop from last year. In San Luis Obispo County, the overall score was API 825, up three points from 822 last year.
The measurements are based on state tests that students in grades 2 through 11 took last spring and on the California High School Exit Examination. The data is used as an indicator of schools’ success by the state.
Crocker noted significant achievements at several schools with student populations that include high numbers of students in poverty or English learners.
Cambria Grammar School, for example, maintained its score of 813 from the prior year. At that school, 52 percent of the students are English language learners.
“For a school to score over 800 with more than half of its students in that population is commendable,” Crocker said.
Lillian Larsen School in San Miguel, which also has a high English language learner population, increased its score to 779, up 12 points from the prior year.
“It’s one thing to have a high API, but improving the scores of students in those categories is worth noting,” Crocker said.
Schools that gained 10 points or more are: San Benito Elementary in Atascadero Unified; Mesa Middle School in Lucia Mar Unified; Bauer/Speck Elementary, Pat Butler Elementary and George Flamson Middle School in Paso Robles Unified; Bellevue Santa Fe Charter and Teach Elementary in San Luis Coastal; Lillian Larsen School in San Miguel Joint Union; Shandon High in Shandon Joint Unified; and Templeton Elementary in Templeton Unified.
Flamson Middle School surpassed the 800 mark for the first time last year and continued to make double-digit gains again this year. In addition, 91 percent of eighth grade students tested in Algebra scored either proficient or advanced.
On Thursday, students and staff at Flamson celebrated the gain with cupcakes.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act measures a school’s growth in 10 demographic categories, including socioeconomic status, native language, ethnicity and disabilities. This is called academic yearly progress, or AYP.
Each year the bar has been set higher, and educational professionals have long criticized the standard as impossible to meet.
By 2014, all students in those subgroups will be expected to be proficient or advanced.
“We are just one year away from everybody being perfect,” Crocker said. “And that is just not going to happen. It is very frustrating being told that we are expected to reach an impossible goal. And everyone knows it, yet it doesn’t seem like the law is being changed.”
If a school fails to reach that bar 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 also meet the federal standards for two consecutive years.
Thirty-six San Luis Obispo County schools are now in program improvement. That is up from 32 schools last year and 27 schools on the list two years ago.
“It is almost becoming a little bit irrelevant,” Crocker said.
Schools are now focusing on a new set of academic standards, known as the Common Core State Standards, which students will be tested on for the first time next school year (2014-2015). These standards place a stronger emphasis on analytic thinking, reasoning and writing.