Thursday, September 01, 2005

Local schools improve standardized test scores

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Aug 31, 2005 - 11:01:34 pm PDT

Local schools improve standardized test scores

By Brad Stanhope

- Fairfield-Suisun schools beat the state average for improvement in the Academic Performance Index scores released Wednesday and all schools in the Fairfield-Suisun, Travis and Vacaville districts reached the desired federal level for the same state tests.

And in the Adequate Yearly Progress reports - which is required by the No Child Left Behind Act - 13 of the 28 Fairfield-Suisun schools reached federal goals in all 46 areas.

"As a whole, the state grew about 20 points in the API and Fairfield-Suisun grew 29 points (to a 712 total)," said Dr. Brian Centano, the district's director of assessment and accountability. "That's fairly good growth for our district."

Travis schools increased by seven points to 797 and Vacaville schools were up 23 points to 726. The statewide average for the API was 736.

The best news for Fairfield-Suisun schools came at the high school level, where all three major schools - Rodriguez, Armijo and Fairfield high schools - met both the state and all the federal goals.

Of Fairfield-Suisun's 28 schools, the biggest API score jump came from Crystal Middle School, which increased 68 points, one better than Fairfield High. Two elementary schools - Cleo Gordon and Fairfield - had declines in their API scores.

Statewide, eight of 10 public schools improved their standardized test scores enough to meet their goals on the API, said Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. That figure is up from the 64 percent that met the target last year.

Each school gets an API score between 200 and 1,000, depending on the school's previous scores and how much they increased over the course of the year. The statewide target for all schools is 800 and only four Fairfield-Suisun schools - Nelda Mundy, K.I. Jones, Suisun Valley and B. Gale Wilson - reached that. Four of nine Travis schools and four of 16 Vacaville schools also scored 800 or better.

Fifty-six percent of all California schools showed "adequate yearly progress," according to the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The federal goal is to have 100 percent of children proficient in math and English. Last year, 65 percent of California schools met that goal.

To make their federal goals this year, elementary and middle schools must show that 24.4 percent of students are "proficient" in English and language arts, an increase from the 13.6 percent goal last year.

High schools had to show that 22.3 percent of their students were "proficient" in English this year, compared to 11.2 percent last year.

For the math requirement, the goals rose from 16 percent to 26.5 percent for elementary students, and from 9.6 percent to 20.9 percent for high school students.

The API and AYP are calculated using the same set of standardized tests. Those tests include the California Standards Test, which tests curriculum unique to California classrooms, and the California Achievement Test. That exam allows educators to see how California students compare to children around the nation. High schools also are judged by graduation rates and scores on the California High School Exit Exam.

O'Connell said the difference is how the two benchmarks use the results. The state's API looks at how much a school improved its test scores in a year, while the federal yearly progress measurement sets a static goal for all schools.

Because of that different approach, 40 percent of California schools showed improvement on the state scale but failed to make the federal goal.

While all schools are held to the federal goals, the consequences for failing fall only on schools that receive extra federal money because they serve high percentages of low-income students. If those schools fail to make adequate progress two years in a row, they must allow students to transfer to other schools that are making progress.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6925 or

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