San Luis Obispo County schools get good grades from the state

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/School 2012 API 2011 API Made API target schoolwide Met API subgroups Met AYP Program improvement
Monterey Road Elementary 841 839 Yes Yes No Not Title 1
San Benito Elementary 814 839 Yes No No Year 2 in PI
San Gabriel Elementary 818 804 Yes Yes No Not Title 1
Santa Margarita Elementary 821 823 Yes Yes No Not Title 1
Santa Rosa Academic Academy 802 794 Yes Yes No Year 4 in PI
Atascadero Junior High 844 840 Yes No No Not Title 1
Fine Arts Academy 871 839 Yes Yes Yes Not Title 1
Atascadero High 804 796 Yes No No Not Title 1
Small schools
Carrisa Plains Elementary 705* 742* No Yes No Not in PI
Creston Elementary 779* 770* Yes Yes No Not in PI
West Mall Alternative 809* 765* Yes Yes No Not Title 1
ASAM (alternative) schools
Del Rio Continuation High 524 620* No Yes No Not in PI
Cayucos Elementary (K-8) 906 873 Yes Yes Yes Not in PI
Cambria Grammar 813 813 Yes No No Not in PI
Santa Lucia Middle 850 825 Yes Yes No Not Title 1
Coast Union High 795 789 Yes No Yes Not Title 1
Branch Elementary 890 907 Yes Yes No Not Title 1
Dana Elementary 813 816 Yes No No Year 2 in PI
Fairgrove Elementary 828 821 Yes Yes No Year 1 in PI
Grover Beach Elementary 791 826 No No No Year 1 in PI
Grover Heights Elementary 864 846 Yes Yes Yes Not in PI
Harloe Elementary 856 872 Yes No No Not in PI
Dorothea Lange Elementary 822 No Year 4 in PI
Nipomo Elementary 801 813 Yes No No Year 5 in PI
Ocean View Elementary 900 902 Yes Yes Yes Not Title 1
Oceano Elementary 770 771 No No No Year 2 in PI
Shell Beach Elementary 903 897 Yes Yes Yes Not Title 1
Judkins Middle 833 825 Yes No No Year 4 in PI
Mesa Middle 785 782 No No No Year 4 in PI
Paulding Middle 855 838 Yes Yes No Year 2 in PI
Arroyo Grande High 788 798 No No No Year 3 in PI
Nipomo High 778 783 No No No Year 2 in PI
ASAM school
Lopez Continuation High 621* 586* Yes Yes No Not in PI
Bauer/Speck Elementary 746 788 No No No Year 4 in PI
Georgia Brown Elementary 798 786 Yes Yes No Year 2 in PI
Kermit King Elementary 847 818 Yes Yes No Year 1 in PI
Pat Butler Elementary 844 836 Yes Yes No Year 2 in PI
Virginia Peterson Elementary 802 825 Yes No No Year 1 in PI
Winifred Pifer Elementary 814 828 Yes No No Year 3 in PI
Daniel Lewis Middle 841 810 Yes Yes Yes Year 3 in PI
Flamson Middle 820 820 Yes No No Year 5 in PI
Paso Robles High 774 777 No No No Year 4 in PI
Small schools
Independence High 606* 658* No Yes No Not in PI
Independent Study Center 774* 845* No Yes No Not Title 1
ASAM schools
Liberty High (Continuation) 576* 572* No Yes Yes Not in PI
Pleasant Valley Elementary (K-8) 832* 825* Yes Yes No Not in PI
Baywood Elementary 794 809 No No No Year 2 in PI
Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter 917 909 Yes Yes Yes Not Title 1
Bishop’s Peak Elementary 913 900 Yes Yes Yes Not Title 1
Del Mar Elementary 844 811 Yes Yes No Year 2 in PI
Hawthorne Elementary 840 817 Yes Yes Yes Year 2 in PI
Los Ranchos Elementary 914 917 Yes Yes Yes Not Title 1
Monarch Grove Elementary 869 869 Yes Yes No Year 1 in PI
Pacheco Elementary 856 839 Yes Yes No Year 5 in PI
Sinsheimer Elementary 882 866 Yes Yes Yes Not Title 1
Smith Elementary 828 791 Yes Yes No Year 4 in PI
Teach Elementary 975 984 Yes Yes Yes Not Title 1
Laguna Middle 856 852 Yes No No Not Title 1
Los Osos Middle 821 801 Yes Yes No Not Title 1
Morro Bay High 819 807 Yes Yes No Not Title 1
San Luis Obispo High 830 824 Yes No No Not Title 1
Small schools
San Luis County Special Edu. 792* 771* N/A N/A Yes Not in PI
ASAM schools
SLO County Community 471 456* No No No Year 5 in PI
Cappy Culver 831 810 Yes Yes No Not in PI
Lillian Larsen Elementary (K-8) 759 751 Yes Yes No Year 5 in PI
Parkfield Elementary 791* N/A N/A N/A Yes Not Title 1
Shandon Elementary 778 752 Yes Yes Yes Year 1 in PI
Shandon High 695* 661* Yes Yes Yes Not in PI
Templeton Elementary 874 804 Yes Yes Yes Not in PI
Vineyard Elementary (3-5) 870 863 Yes No Yes Not in PI
Templeton Middle 889 884 Yes Yes No Not in PI
Templeton High 851 861 Yes Yes Yes Not Title 1
Small schools
Templeton Home 806* 831* Yes Yes Yes Not Title 1
Templeton Ind. Study High 710* 694* Yes Yes Yes Not 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.