FROM THE CDE WEBSITE: The 2007 Base API Reports, including school rankings and growth targets are posted on the API Web page at Academic Performance Index.
by Connie Llanos, Staff Writer - LA Daily News
May 22, 2008 - Los Angeles Unified School District students continued to improve on a key California standards test, although their scores still lag behind statewide averages, according to results released Wednesday.
Steady gains also were found for minority, low-income and disabled students who in previous years had failed to show gains districtwide, according to the newly released Academic Performance Index scores.
Several San Fernando Valley schools topped the LAUSD's list of high achievement, and many others have also showed significant test-score improvements from previous years.
Still, while elementary and high schools made gains, many middle schools showed little change from the previous year.
"I am encouraged, but not satisfied, by the growth that we continue to make," said Ramon Cortines, senior deputy superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
"I am pleased with the growth you see at the elementary and high school level, but when you look at the middle schools being flat, we know there is work to do."
Overall, the LAUSD raised its Academic Performance Index score - used as a gauge by the state to compare schools against federal achievement guidelines - by seven points, to 662. But the statewide average was 728.
API scores for LAUSD elementary schools increased by nine points, reaching a district average of 727, and high schools spiked by 13 points, to 615, while the middle schools remained flat at 634.
The scores fall short of the statewide average of 763 for elementary schools, 689 for high schools and 720 for middle schools.
But gains were found in several district groups, including Latino students, whose score rose to 638 from the previous year's 630.
African-American students also boosted their scores - by six points, reaching a total of 612 - and special-education students showed the largest leap over the previous year, up by 13 points, to 470.
Cortines said he celebrated success stories like that of Blythe Street Elementary in Panorama City, where the majority of students are considered low-income, English-language learners but test scores jumped by 17 points.
"I think everyone is beginning to understand that this data is important and serious as it relates to college readiness and career readiness," he said.
The Valley continued to produce some of the district's highest-performing schools.
Balboa Gifted/High Ability Magnet was the district's top-scoring school, with an average of 975 out of a possible 1,000 points.
"So many of the schools in the Valley posted really impressive test scores," said Tamar Galatzan, a Los Angeles Unified board member representing the San Fernando Valley.
"This doesn't come as a great surprise. ... We have great, great teachers, staff, parents and students. ... These scores just show our kids are learning, and they are engaged."
Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of schools, also said he was satisfied with the latest API scores that showed a growing number of elementary, middle and high schools achieving the state's performance target of 800.
LAUSD misses target
Almost 40 percent of the state's elementary schools have reached the target. Nearly one-quarter of all middle schools and almost 15 percent of all high schools have also reached the goal.
This is another area where the LAUSD lags behind. In the entire district, only 14 percent of all schools have hit the state's target score.
Middle schools have appeared as the district's new weak point, with only five out of 98 reaching the state goal.
Galatzan said middle schools have been neglected while efforts to improve elementary schools and high schools have been more of a priority since 1999, when the standards testing began.
"We have large middle schools, and we don't have instructional innovations targeted toward them right now," Galatzan said.
Jeanie Leighton, the district's director of middle school programs, agreed that middle-school reform needs to be more of a priority, and she said several programs are currently being considered.
Reforms at the high-school level seem to have paid off for the district in the latest scores, after several years of decreasing scores. Many showed marked improvements, including several in the San Fernando Valley.
El Camino Real and Grant High School were among a handful of schools in the area that saw double-digit increases in test scores.
But not every high school saw increases, among them Birmingham High in Lake Balboa - where API scores dropped from 651 to 638 this past year.
But Principal Marsha Coates said the scores shouldn't always be viewed as comprehensive.
"They are a snapshot," Coates said. "It depends on whether you have a different testing coordinator, which we did last year, what time you test and when on the calendar it's administered."
Coates also said that while the school didn't fare well in state testing, on a federal level the school has now been removed from "program-improvement status" - a sanction placed on schools that fail to meet federal No Child Left Behind Act standards.
The school has also seen an increase in the number of its 10th-graders passing the California High School Exit Exam.
"It is difficult to motivate students sometimes. ... They don't see this as a high-stakes test, so it can be difficult to get them to see this as important."