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Turlock schools climb up education ladder, still work to do
State assessments reveal that students at nearly all Turlock Unified School District schools are improving significantly as far as meeting or exceeding state averages in English-language arts, mathematics, science and history/ social science. - photo by Journal file photo

The Turlock Unified School District is showing serious signs of improvement, but lots of work remains to be done.

Yesterday the TUSD released the annual School Accountability Report Card (SARC), a summary of testing and demographic information about district schools. The SARC is mandated by the state and federal governments and basically serves as an update on how schools are progressing toward certain academic achievement goals.

State assessments reveal that students at nearly all schools are improving significantly as far as meeting or exceeding state averages in English-language arts, mathematics, science and history/ social science. However, of all 15 school sites in TUSD, only Walnut Education Center, Sandra Tovar Medeiros Elementary, Marvin Dutcher Middle and Julien Elementary beat state averages in all categories applicable to those schools. This reveals work still needs to be done for TUSD schools.

“With our initiatives in place we are positive we will continue to see positive growth,” said Laurie Harrington, director of assessment and accountability for TUSD.

A measuring stick for academic progress is the Academic Performance Index, which is mandated by the California Department of Education. The API is a comparison of Turlock schools to other schools in the state, factoring in important academic indicators of success such as graduation rates and assessments in English/ language arts and mathematics. All but three schools in TUSD had outstanding growth in performance, with Wakefield Elementary leading the way with a 58 point jump, followed by Julien and Earl elementary schools, which both had 40 plus point jumps. Despite the large jumps, TUSD overall remains in Federal Intervention Program, also known as “program improvement.”

The federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (formerly known as No Child Left Behind) requires that all schools and districts meet an adequate yearly progress (AYP). The AYP is a federal measuring stick based on certain criteria such as the percent of students proficient or advanced in assessment testing, such as STAR, graduation rate and the API. The district continues to remain in program improvement because test scores in English and math for English-language learners continues to lag behind the acceptable percent of students testing at proficient or advanced.

Overall, the district is now in its fourth year of program improvement and thus far the improving scores speak for themselves, but the beat goes on; still work to do.

“I feel confident our achievements will continue. There is evidence in the classroom, bench mark scores for this year show a double digit growth ahead of last year,” said Lacrisha Ferriera, TUSD assistant superintendent for educational services. Bench mark scores are quarterly scores conducted by schools to gage and predict where improvements are being made and where weaknesses may lay. “I am predicting we will continue to see growth this year and year after year,” said Ferriera, who credits teachers for the district-wide improvements. “We knew we (administration) need to support our teachers and their training in lesson delivery, checking for student understanding and how students learn,” she said.

At the high school level the graduation rate remained fairly steady for the third straight year (ending in 2008-09) and the school district had an 83.1 percent graduation rate, compared to the state average of 78.4. Overall, 10th grade students at TUSD high schools improved in the California High School Exit Exam, jumping up from 48.4 in 2008-09 to 53.5 percent of students scoring at proficient or advanced levels in English for 2009-10. The state average for English is 54 percent. In mathematics, overall student scores jumped from 43.9 to 48 percent. The state average is 53.4 percent. Of note, Pitman High scored a 10 percent increase from 50.4 percent to 60 percent in English.

The SARC reports for 2009-2010 are posted online at the TUSD web page.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.