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TUSD makes gains in test scores

POSTED September 2, 2011 10:24 p.m.

The Turlock Unified School District saw another year of growth in test scores, as the newest Accountability Progress Report was released by the state on Wednesday.

The district recorded a 13-point gain in its Academic Performance Index, or API, going from a score of 760 in 2010 to 773 in 2011.

“I’m very, very pleased with that over the last three years, we’ve had growth over time of 8.7 percent in test scores, 46 point growth in the last years,” said TUSD Superintendent Sonny Da Marto. “The thing that’s more impressive to me is our subgroups…over that same period of time, our Hispanic subgroup grew 54 points, our EL, English learners, grew 50 points and the socioeconomic disadvantaged group grew 61 points. We’re really trying to narrow that gap, and it’s really paid off.”

API scores are a measure of each district and school based on the California Standardized Tests and high school exit exam pass rates. API scores run from 200 to 1,000 and the state requires each school to get a score of 800 or higher.  

Four TUSD schools scored above 800 — Dutcher Middle School (808), Julien Elementary (811), Medeiros Elementary (859), with Walnut Elementary Education Center recording the highest score in the district at 886.

Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy, the district’s only Spanish-English bilingual instruction school, saw the largest growth, gaining 35 points (722 in 2010 to 757 in 2011).

All TUSD schools had gains from 2010 to 2011, except for two — Crowell Elementary, which recorded a five point loss, and Wakefield Elementary, which dropped nine points.

“We’re examining data and trying to identify areas we need to improve,” Da Marto said about Wakefield’s lack of progress.  “No excuses, somehow we need to work smarter, find out what we need to do to help the students of Wakefield understand and increase productivity.”

The school has recently implemented programs to help improve learning such as after-school tutoring and “No Excuses University,” a college-bound strategy that aims to motivate students to achieve.

“Some of those things take time, a few years before we’ll see fruit of that effort,” Da Marto said.

State-wide schools reported gains in test scores. A record 49 percent of California schools met or exceeded the state’s API target, announced State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

In all, 55 percent of elementary schools, 43 percent of middle schools and 28 percent of high schools met or surpassed the state API target of 800, with the proportion of schools making the target rising 3 percentage points from last year, from 46 percent to 49 percent.

“I applaud the hard work our students, teachers, parents, school employees and administrators are doing to improve—even in the face of severe cuts to school funding,” Torlakson said. “At school, after school, and among every significant ethnic group, California’s students are performing better than ever. The failure here is in our politics, not our public schools.”

Torlakson’s release of California’s 2010-11 Accountability Progress Report provides results of both state (API) and federal school accountability systems.

Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, the federal NCLB target for students scoring at or above proficiency, increased 11 percentage points this year statewide. It is slated to continue rising until 100 percent of students will be expected to be proficient in 2013-14.

“We’re 23 points away from being an 800 district. We’re continuing to see gains every year, but even though we’re getting progress we still have a ways to go,” Da Marto said about the district’s failure to meet AYP goals.

Other area school districts also saw growth. Keyes Union gained 31 points (759) in its API score; Denair Unified gained nine points (719); and Hilmar Unified saw an 11-point increase (786).

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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