Students at five schools in the Temecula Valley Unified School District scored among the highest in Riverside County, according to state results released Thursday by the California Department of Education.
Alamos Elementary ranked first in the county among elementary schools based on its 2012 Academic Performance Index score of 951, an increase of 13 points from 2011. Ysabel Barnett Elementary’s API score of 927—an increase of 26 points from last year—placed it as the third highest performing elementary in the county. Crowne Hill Elementary was the fifth-highest performing with an API of 926, up from 912 in 2011.
Vail Ranch was the fourth-highest scoring middle school in the county with an API of 891—an increase of 23 points from last year.
Great Oak ranked No. 3 among the county’s comprehensive high schools, pulling an API of 849, though that was down from last year’s school-wide score of 853.
API reflects growth in student achievement from one year to the next and is determined by results on the California Standards Tests in English, math, history/social science and science, and the California High School Exit Exam.
The scores range from 200 to 1,000, with a performance target of 800.
Temecula Valley Unified as a whole improved by 12 points, from 858 in 2011 to 870 in 2012.
As a district, Temecula Valley has the highest API in the county and ranks 161 out of 987 districts statewide, district spokesperson Melanie Norton pointed out.
Additionally, Temecula Valley’s "at or above proficiency" rates are the highest in the county for both English-language arts and math, Norton said.
“We're very pleased with the test scores,” Norton said. “Many of our schools made double-digit gains this year, and nearly all of our subgroups made gains. Our principals, teachers and staff continue to pull together- sharpening our practices and moving our students forward. “
According to the state, 53 percent of California schools met or exceeded the 800-point bar in 2011-12, up four percentage points from the previous year.
"In the real terms of the state's Academic Performance Index, Riverside County students continued to score gains in 2012," county Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Young said. "Our students registered a six-point year-over- year API improvement, third best of any California county with 10,000 or more graduates."
Young said the federal component of the API—the Adequate Yearly Progress standard—reveals signs of slow or no progress in some schools. He also worried that the state's new School Quality Snapshot, unveiled today, might misrepresent how well some students are doing.
"The snapshot perpetuates the notion that students who score 'proficient and above' in English, math and science are meeting an important benchmark," the superintendent said. "Yet there's mounting evidence that a 'proficient' rating doesn't guarantee a high school graduate is prepared to succeed at college level work. We need standards with real-world meaning."
The county's highest-scoring elementary schools on the 2011-12 API were:
—Alamos Elementary, in the Temecula Valley Unified School District, at 951;
—George Washington Carver Elementary in the Desert Sands Unified School District, at 927;
—Ysabel Barnett Elementary in Temecula Valley, at 927;
—Kennedy Elementary in RUSD, at 926; and
—Crowne Hill Elementary in Temecula Valley, at 926.
Statewide, 59 percent of elementary schools, 49 percent of middle schools and 30 percent of high schools met the state API benchmark.
Elementary school scores statewide increased by 7 points to 815, while middle schools jumped 14 points to 792 and high schools increased 11 points to 752.
The county's highest-scoring middle schools on the 2011-12 API were:
—Western Center Academy in Hemet Unified, at 955;
—Amelia Earhart Middle, in Riverside Unified, a 906;
—San Jacinto Leadership Academy in San Jacinto Unified at 897;
—Vail Ranch Middle in Temecula Valley Unified, at 891; and
—Dorothy McElhinney Middle, in Murrieta Valley Unified, at 889.
The county's highest-scoring comprehensive high schools on the 2011-12 API were:
—John F. Kennedy High in Corona-Norco Unified, at 866;
—California Military Institute, in Perris Union, at 856;
—Great Oak High in Temecula Valley Unified, at 849;
—Murrieta Valley High in Murrieta Valley Unified, at 848; and
—Nuview Bridge Early College High in Nuview Union, at 847.
"We've set a high bar for schools and they have more than met the challenge, despite the enormous obstacles that years of budget cuts have put in their way," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. "The incredible efforts of teachers, administrators, school employees, parents and students should serve as an inspiration to us all. While there's still more work to do, California's schools have earned a vote of confidence."
Scores for all schools in Temecula Valley Unified for 2012 were as follows:
—Abby Reinke Elementary: 922, up from 903;
—Alamos Elementary: 951, up from 938;
—Crowne Hill Elementary: 926, up from 912;
—French Valley Elementary: 905, up from 894;
—Helen Hunt Jackson Elementary: 913, up from 907
—Nicolas Valley Elementary: 893, down from 894;
—Paloma Valley Elementary: 918, up from 913;
—Pauba Valley Elementary: 900, up from 885;
—Rancho Elementary: 920, up from 914;
—Red Hawk Elementary: 912, up from 890;
—Susan La Vorgna Elementary: 899, up from 871;
—Temecula Elementary: 823, up from 822;
—Temecula Luiseno Elementary: 890, up from 878;
—Temecula Preparatory Elementary: 872, up from 863;
—Temecula Valley Charter: 907, up from 898;
—Tony Tobin Elementary: 905, down from 908;
—Vail Elementary: 887, up from 862;
—Vintage Hills Elementary: 911, up from 910;
—Ysabel Barnett Elementary: 927, up from 901;
—Bella Vista Middle: 876, up from 862;
—Erle Stanley Gardner Middle: 882, up from 861;
—James L. Day Middle: 856, up from 843;
—Margarita Middle: 880, up from 866;
—Temecula Middle: 886, up from 878;
—Vail Ranch Middle: 891, up from 868;
—Chaparral High: 835, up from 819;
—Great Oak High: 849, down from 853;
—Temecula Valley High: 814, up from 808;
—Keegan Academy: 764, down from 793;
—Susan H. Nelson High: 759, down from 760; and
—Rancho Vista High: 654, up from 578.
Schools that made the largest year-over-year gains were: Susan La Vorgna Elementary, which rose by 28 points; Ysabel Barnett Elementary, by 26 points; Vail Ranch Middle, by 23 points; Erle Stanley Gardner Middle, by 21 points; and Chaparral High by 16 points.
Rancho Vista High, the district’s continuation high school, made a gain of 76 points.
For the first time, however, the district had two schools—Temecula Elementary and Vail Elementary—placed in Program Improvement status based on the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
“Our students have shown excellent growth overall, but we have three sub-groups that did not meet the 78 percent proficiency rate in English, and three sub-groups did not meet the 78.2 percent proficiency rate in math,” Norton said.
“We will continue to implement strategies to help students meet the expectations,” she said. “Our administrators are analyzing the data and providing targeted interventions for those students who are not meeting proficiency. Under NCLB, the Adequate Yearly Progress targets are increasing every year and far beyond what is reasonable.”
Temecula is not alone; among school districts and statewide, there continues to be a movement to get out from beneath the federal thumb of NCLB.
"California's request for a waiver from the requirements of NCLB is still pending," Torlakson said. "While we're waiting for the flexibility we need, we're not going to allow a flawed system to distract us from the work we're doing to help schools improve."
Along with the annual API scores, Torlakson also unveiled the California Department of Education's new School Quality Snapshot, a free, online accountability tool that puts a wide variety of academic results and other information about a school's performance at the fingertips of parents and the public, according to a CDE news releae.
These reports—visual representations of data schools already reported to CDE—represent a first step in how the Department and the State Board of Education plan to use data to better inform the public about the progress of California schools as they reshape the School Accountability Report Card and revise the Academic Performance Index as required by Senate Bill 1458 (Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento), CDE stated in the news release.
—City News Service contributed to this report.