Schools in the Temecula Valley and Murrieta Valley unified school districts continue to be among the top performing public schools in Riverside County, according to new test scores released today based on state standards.
The Riverside County Office of Education identified the following schools and districts as among Riverside County’s leading performers, according to new Academic Performance Index figures. The scores are based on standardized tests students took last spring.
Three TVUSD elementary schools, one middle school and one high school placed in the top five schools for each category countywide.
The top five elementary schools in Riverside County for the 2012 API are: TVUSD’s Alamos Elementary (951); George Washington Charter in the Desert Sands USD (927); Ysabel Barnett Elementary in the TVUSD (927); John F. Kennedy Elementary, Riverside USD (926); and TVUSD’s Crowne Hill Elementary (926).
The top five middle schools in Riverside County, according to the 2012 API, are: Western Center Academy in the Hemet USD (955); Amelia Earhart Middle, Riverside USD (906); San Jacinto Leadership Academy, San Jacinto USD (897); TVUSD’s Vail Ranch Middle School (891); and Dorothy McElhinney Middle in the Murrieta Valley USD, (889).
The top five high schools are: John F. Kennedy High, an “early college,” or “magnet” high school in the Corona-Norco USD (866); California Military Institute, Perris Union High School District (856); TVUSD’s Great Oak High School, (849); Murrieta Valley High, Murrieta Valley USD (848); and Nuview Bridge Early College High, Nuview Union (847).
Murrieta Valley High’s API was up 15 points from the prior year, but Great Oak’s 2012 score actually dipped 4 points, from 853 in 2011.
“We’re very pleased that Murrieta Valley made that list and a few points behind are Murrieta Mesa and Vista Murrieta,” said Guy Romero, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services for Murrieta Valley USD.
Vista Murrieta’s 2012 API was 837 and Murrieta Mesa’s is 818, Romero said, adding that all the Murrieta middle school API scores exceeded 800 as well. As for the elementary schools, Cole Canyon leads with a new API of 913 and Alta Murrieta’s is 912. The rest of the Murrieta elementary schools scored well over the state’s goal, between 843 and 897, Romero said.
Romero said he is glad to see that more students are proficient across grade levels and across schools. District-wide, about 70 percent of students are proficient in English Language Arts and math, slightly higher than the county and state averages. He cautioned, however, that continued steeper budget cuts in schools could change that moving forward.
“All of these test scores are reflective of test scores where class sizes were lower and there were few combination classes,” Romero said.
This year, Murrieta classes are bigger, there are many more combination classes and more teachers are teaching a new grade level for the first time due to staffing shuffles.
“We have concern about this year. We’re hoping it doesn’t cause too much of an issue. Schools have been doing everything (they) can to keep the cuts out of the classes.”
In the TVUSD, all but four schools posted higher scores than the previous year and the point losses for three of those were only 1-4 points (Keegan Academy’s score declined by 24 points).
Schools that posted the biggest API gains are Susan LaVorgna Elementary, which made a 28-point gain; Ysabel Barnett Elementary, which posted a 26-point gain; Vail Ranch Middle School, which made a 23-point gain; Gardner Middle School, which posted a 21-point gain (to 882), and Chaparral High, which raised its API score by 16 points, to 835. Temecula Valley High’s 2012 API is 814, a 6-point increase over 2011.
As for the other middle schools, Bella Vista’s new API is 876; Margarita Middle’s is 880; Temecula Middle’s is 886; and James L. Day’s is 856.
“We’re very pleased with the test scores. Many of our schools made double-digit gains this year, and nearly all of our subgroups made gains. Our principals, teachers and staff continue to pull together, sharpening our practices and moving our students forward,” TVUSD spokeswoman Melanie Norton said Thursday.
API scores range between 200 and 1,000 with a state target of 800. In addition to the API score for the school overall and for student subgroups, the state issues a growth report that tells whether the API targets were met for the school and for each student group, in accordance with state standards.
The API includes assessment results from the California Standards Tests in English-language arts, mathematics, history/social science and science, and the California High School Exit Exam in grades 10 through 12.
Across California and Riverside County, the API news was positive. Riverside County students registered a 6-point, year-over-year gain in their API scores, the third best of any California County with 10,000 or more graduates, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools Kenneth M. Young announced.
“Each of our student subgroups lifted their scores by at least four points. Our English learners’ scores rose by 12 points. Over the last decade, Riverside County overall scores are up 130 points,” Young said.
On a statewide level, the latest API news was also good. State Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson announced Thursday morning that for the first time a majority of California’s public schools had met or surpassed the statewide target for academic achievement on the 2012 API.
Some 53 percent of schools scored at or above 800, an increase of 4 percentage points from last year. Ten years ago, only 20 percent of schools met or surpassed the API target. Results released by Torlakson showed that 59 percent of elementary schools, 49 percent of middle schools, and 30 percent of high schools met the state benchmark.
African American and disabled students showed the largest gains with an increase of 14 points for each student group, to 710 and 607, respectively.
Latinos and English learners also posted strong gains, with Latinos adding 11 points to 740 and English learners adding 10 points to 716. Asian and white students made smaller gains of 7 and 8 points respectively, and still have the highest API totals among student groups of 905 and 853, respectively.
Statewide, elementary schools API scores grew by seven points to 815, middle schools by 14 points to 792, and high schools by 11 points to 752.
Also Thursday, Torlakson unveiled the California Department of Education’s new School Quality Snapshot — a free, online accountability tool for parents and the public. These two-page reports represent a first step in how the CDE and the State Board of Education plan to use data to better inform the public about the progress of California schools.
Amy Bentley is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.