Wednesday, January 16, 2008


by Naush Boghossian, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

San Fernando Valley schools are continuing to improve and generally outperform others in Los Angeles Unified, county and statewide on key student achievement tests, according to a new report released Monday.

The LAUSD's Valley schools and the Burbank, Glendale and Las Virgenes school districts all scored better than the LAUSD's average Academic Performance Index score of 655 in 2006-07, according to the report by researchers at Cal State Northridge.

All but east San Fernando Valley schools also scored higher than county and state averages, said Daniel Blake, director of the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center, which issued the report.

"Education is very important to the Valley and the consequences of that is that particularly in the smaller districts, they can really move and produce great results," Blake said.

"Because education is important to those communities, we've seen a strong response."

The study, "San Fernando Valley Enrollment Trends and Performance," showed that Burbank achieved an API of 782, closing in on the statewide target of 800, and west San Fernando Valley schools came in with a score of 743.

Despite trailing the county and the state, east San Fernando Valley schools managed to boost their score to 674, up from 556 in the 2001-02 school year.


Tamar Galatzan, who represents parts of both local districts 1 and 2 in the Valley, said she's not surprised by the report's positive conclusion.

A graduate of the Valley's Birmingham High, Galatzan said Valley schools have a history of collaboration between parents, teachers and administrators.

"The Valley has a long-standing reputation for excellent schools and this report shows that this reputation is well deserved," Galatzan said.

"Hard-working students, dedicated teachers and great administrators lead to higher test scores."

The Glendale and Las Virgenes districts surpassed the 800 API threshold last year.

Alice Petrossian, assistant superintendent of elementary education at the 27,000-student Glendale Unified, said a key to their success is focusing on instructional programs and having strong partnerships among the district, principals, teachers, parents and students.

"We review data on each child so that we know what their needs are and if interventions are necessary or needed we provide them," Petrossian said.

"This is a district that for the last decade has been known as a visionary, high-performing district regardless of its English Language Learner-immigrant or low socioeconomic population."

The report says local schools are increasing their performance even with declining enrollments - and subsequently declining funds.


Overall, the number of students attending Valley schools continued to drop, with the area's schools posting a 3.7percent loss in 2006-07, following a 3.5percent decrease in 2005-06 and a 2.4percent decline in 2004-05.

Enrollment dropped 0.4percent statewide and 2percent throughout the county.

Burbank was the only school district to buck the trend, gaining 101 students in 2006-07.

But Blake said he doesn't believe the projected declining enrollment in the next few years will have a negative effect on the rising scores in the Valley.

"Enrollment is an important indicator of quality education," Blake said. "With smaller groups, you're able to tailor education to students' needs."

LAUSD officials, who are struggling to turn around hundreds of low-performing schools, should look to the success of the smaller districts for guidance, Blake said.

Smaller units allow teachers and administrators to focus on local issues and to respond to them more effectively.

"If there were more autonomy on the part of the (local districts) rather than waiting for the whole behemoth of LAUSD to get it right, these (local districts) could move more flexibly to achieve those educational goals," Blake said.


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