API scores rank schools based on students’ academic performance in annual state standardized testing. Scores of 700 are average; scores of 875 are advanced. Local schools strive to reach an 800 score as a benchmark for academic excellence.
The Byron Union School District saw a five-point gain in its API score to reach 831, and Superintendent Ken Jacopetti in particularly proud of Discovery Bay Elementary, which improved its score by 29 points to achieve a 2012 API of 900 – the only school in East County to do so.
“There have been tough times in education due to budget cuts, but teachers are able to do more with less,” Jacopetti said. “Class sizes went up, but performance also went up. I’m really satisfied with these test scores. I’m also pleased to see improvement in our subgroups.”
Byron’s district consists of two other schools: Timber Point Elementary and Excelsior Middle. Timber Point’s score increased 23 points to 863, while Excelsior saw a dip in scores, dropping 14 points to 777. Jacopetti said staff is already working on plans to reach out to students via intervention programs to make sure they have the support they need to be successful in the classroom.
The Liberty Union High School District was the only district to see improvement at all of its schools, raising its API score 22 points to 786. Heritage High School saw an improvement of 34 points, achieving an API score of 834. Freedom High scored 778, up 22 points from last year, and Liberty High improved by five, moving its API to 781. Alternative high school Independence increased its score by 19, posting a 629, while continuation high school La Paloma jumped 45 points to 518.
District Superintendent Eric Volta said is pleased with this year’s scores, as the district has improved its overall score by nearly 100 points in the past five years. Volta credits improved scores to weekly Professional Learning Community meetings in which teachers get together to discuss what’s working and not working in the classroom and explore solutions to achieve optimum student success.
“We’ve got great principals, teachers and students in the Liberty district,” Volta said. “I’m proud of this year’s gains. But there’s more to measuring student success than great API scores. We need to continue to improve our programs to make sure our students are college and career ready upon graduation.”
The Oakley Union Elementary School District also saw gains of 22 points, bringing its API score to 812. Delta Vista Middle School earned the biggest increase, improving by 52 points to reach 802. Iron House Elementary increased its score to 826, improving by 30 points. O’Hara Park Middle School also moved into the 800s, jumping 27 points to 801.
Superintendent Rick Rogers said he’s proud of this year’s scores: “I believe all of our staff members can take great pride in the performance of our students. To have six of our seven schools reach the state’s goal of 800 is a remarkable accomplishment and one in which our entire community should also take great pride. This is recognition for everyone’s hard work.”
Antioch Unified School District Superintendent Donald Gill also credits teamwork for the district’s increase of 12 points, earning a score of 742. Gill is most impressed with the gains made by Antioch’s inner-city elementary schools. Mission Elementary improved by 52 points for an API of 773. Marsh Elementary improved by 44 for a total of 715, and Fremont Elementary gained 47 points, moving it to a score of 726.
“The Antioch district has seen a gain of almost 30 points in three years,” Gill said. “The trend is that our district is moving forward each year, and it’s a team effort. We have high-quality principals and teachers, but it’s more than that. It’s the bus driver who offers a smile in the morning and the food service workers who greet the students each day with a ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you?’”
Gill also applauds the district’s 13,000 students for working hard this past school year to improve their scores. “It’s up to the students who go into the classroom, pick up the pencil and demonstrate what they know. This is the opportunity for them to show what they’ve learned, and I’m proud of their effort.”
Knightsen Elementary School District, comprising only Knightsen School, was the only district to report a decrease in its 2012 scores, but Superintendent Theresa Estrada is looking on the positive side.
“We did see a decrease this year. We are down eight points from last year, but we still have a very healthy API score of 840,” Estrada said. “Last year our class sizes were up, and we had a few combination classes, so that might have affected the scores, but class sizes are down and we’ve eliminated combo classes this year, so hopefully we’ll see improvement.”
Estrada said staff is already collaborating on ways to increase scores and aid students through intervention programs offering students more help after school. A new program is in place to assess the reading skills of kindergarteners and first-graders, as they aren’t formally state tested until the second grade. She believes assessing children early will give teachers the information needed to help students become proficient readers and successful learners.
The Brentwood Union Elementary School District improved its score by 12 points, achieving a score of 855. Nine of its 10 schools saw increases. Marsh Creek Elementary improved by 27 points, bringing its score to 794, and Pioneer Elementary improved by 21 points for a score of 849.