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School Success - District Breaks 800 API

POSTED October 16, 2012 7:06 p.m.

Oakdale Joint Unified School District is the first unified school district in Stanislaus County to break the 800 barrier in the Academic Performance Index (API). A score of 800 is the “gold standard” for API scores, which are computed through students’ state standardized test scores, and OJUSD recently returned an overall district API score of 801. The district had an overall score of 796 last year.

OJUSD Superintendent Marc Malone said that breaking the 800 barrier is “a big deal” and he’s proud of the fact that Oakdale was the first in the county to do it.

“This is a tremendous achievement for our students and our staff,” Malone said. “Our staff is to be commended… Being the first to break 800 shows district wide growth… We want to show improvement across the board and that we’re headed into the area of academic excellence – and that’s where we want to be.”

He added that teachers made adjustments where needed and believes that the IS4 instructional strategies, which were rolled out in November 2011 but won’t be fully implemented until 2013, are an important part of the equation. While commending the staff, Malone also said that the students are to be congratulated for their efforts.

“Students seem to be realizing that taking the test is important,” he said.

Malone noted that the standardized test scores are a way to customize the students’ needs and see where the district needs improvement.

“We can see where they’re at in regards to their peers and it provides us with the data for moving forward,” he said.

The goal was for each school to hit a growth target of five points higher than last year, Malone said. All Oakdale elementary schools returned API scores of over 800. Sierra View had the highest score with 861, an increase of six points from last year. Magnolia had a large jump of 22 points from last year, with a score of 840. Fair Oaks had a score of 849, up three points. Cloverland stayed static with a score of 829.

Malone said that the district wants to see the schools improve each year and wants to see growth but pointed out that once a school breaks 800, the growth is usually slower from one year to the next. He noted that for Magnolia to jump 22 points in one year is a feat to be applauded. Malone also said that Sierra View’s API score put it in the top 10 in the county – including charter schools and academies that typically have higher scores.

He reported that there are 25 high schools in the county and only four have ever reached an API score of 800. Oakdale High School’s score was 789; it had no score last year due to a testing error. Oakdale Junior High School’s score was 784, up one point from last year. Malone said that OHS and OJHS are getting the pieces in place and believes they are on the cusp of breaking 800 next year.

He also reported that there were decreases in scores at the alternative education sites and said that some reprioritizing will be implemented. East Stanislaus, Valley Oak and Oakdale Charter high schools make up the alternative education program. He said that alternative education has a very “mobile” student base and many have difficulties with academic performance.

He added that East Stanislaus and Valley Oak really focus on the California High School Exit Exam because it is the most important but acknowledged that they will need to do a better job of prepping the students for the STAR tests, too. However, he pointed out that the alternative education teachers are doing a good job with differentiated instruction. Malone noted that alternative education requires more flexibility in meeting the needs of the students academically because the students are at different levels. He also said that the district doesn’t want to see that drop in scoring and believes that the alternative education students need to understand that the STAR tests are also important.

Regarding the scores and yearly progress targets, the “criterion” model set forth by No Child Left Behind wants to see 100 percent of students scoring “proficient” by 2014. Malone said that the schools are better served to see how each student improves from year to year and that a “growth” model of scoring is a more accurate measure.

Malone also said that the district will hold another “town hall” meeting for parents that will focus on specific topics and the importance of certain factors to improve students’ educations at 6 p.m. on Nov. 8 at the Magnolia auditorium.

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