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School Performance Scores Dip in LBUSD and Countywide

The majority of school districts in the county and two of Laguna Beach Unified's four schools see declines.

API scores are down a bit in Laguna Beach Unified School District. Patch file photo.
API scores are down a bit in Laguna Beach Unified School District. Patch file photo.

Just as students’ achievement scores dropped slightly this past year, so have the numbers assigned to schools to help the public keep tract of school-wide performance.

Almost all of Orange County school districts saw a dip in what’s called the “academic performance index,” or API, with Santa Ana Unified seeing the biggest drop, down 13 points. In Patch towns, Capistrano Unified saw the biggest decline, down 9 points. It was the fourth largest drop countywide, second largest for a K-12 district.

The API is a numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000. The state Department of Education considers a score of 800 to be a target goal, while a score of 900-plus has informal bragging rights.

Laguna Beach Unified saw a 5-point dip, though it’s firmly planted in the coveted 900-club territory. It fell to third top district, below Irvine and Los Alamitos unified school distrcts.

“LBUSD is a highly performing school district, yet we always examine our data and results to see if there are areas in which we can improve,” said Superintendent Sherine Smith. “We will do the same this year and use our insights to improve our practice where necessary.”

Last year’s top performing elementary school, Oxford Preparatory Academy, a charter school in Mission Viejo, dropped three points to 990 and to second place, bested by Villa Park Elementary in the Orange Unified School District. The county’s top performing high school continues to be Oxford Academy, a magnet high school in Cypress.

Overall countywide, only six of 27 school districts saw gains of any sort, with Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified being the only K-12 to see a positive number, albeit a statistically insignificant +1. The Orange County Department of Education, which operates special ed programs and educates students in lock-up, also saw a gain.

School districts are now in the process of switching over to a new, nationalized curriculum, called the Common Core. Several Orange County superintendents said the change may play a role in the slight dips this year.

“In California, we expect a state-wide decrease in [California Standards Test] scores next year as we shift our focus.  That may be part of what happened in this year’s test scores as well,” said Laguna Beach’s Smith.

Indeed, the tests will be phased out after the 2014-15 school year, said Marc Ecker, superintendent of Fountain Valley Schools.

“We also know that eight of our largest urban districts in the state were approved for their CORE waiver,” meaning there are no consequences for not meeting various goals, Ecker said.

“As president of the Association of California School Administrators, I will be leading a concerted effort in finding a pathway to either a reauthorization of the old [No Child Left Behind] statutes or to an application process by which school districts like Fountain Valley can climb on board the CORE waiver approved this summer for” Los Angeles Unified, Long Beach Unified and other big districts.

Statewide, the overall API declined by 2 points from last year, from 791 to 789, although a number of student subgroups saw gains, according to a state Department of Education press release. Subgroups seeing gains were socioeconomically disadvantaged students, English learners and students with disabilities.

Here’s how districts in Orange County Patch towns fared:

Laguna Beach Unified (918)

The No. 3 school district in the county this year, Laguna Beach has an API of 918, down 5 points compared to last year. Laguna Beach High dropped below the 900-level to 897, the only school beneath the gold standard. However, Thurston Middle School lost the most ground, 18 points, dropping to 931. The two elementary schools gained.

Capistrano Unified (874)

Capo’s district API dropped from 883 last year to 874 this year, a decline of 9 points. Of its 54 traditional schools, 45 saw drops, the biggest experienced by Viejo Elementary in Mission Viejo at -78 and Las Palmas Elementary in San Clemente at -41. Both are Spanish dual-immersion schools.

Bernice Ayer Middle School in San Clemente saw the biggest decrease among middle schools, dropping 31 points and below the coveted 900-mark.

Tesoro High School in Las Flores dropped the most among high schools, 14 points to 882. Capistrano Valley High in Mission Viejo had the only gain among high schools, jumping 9 points to 846. Overall, only six schools (not counting the charters) had increases, with Clarence Lobo Elementary in San Clemente having the largest jump, up 24 points to 839. Three schools remained flat.

Fountain Valley Schools (911)

The elementary school district dropped 4 points to 911.

Fountain Valley High School (884)

The only school from the Huntington Beach Union School District inside a Patch town, Fountain Valley High School saw a drop of 7 points, to 884.

Los Alamitos Unified (921)

Los Al jumped into the No. 2 spot in Orange County (over Laguna Beach as mentioned and three points shy of Irvine Unified). It was down one point compared to last year’s score. The biggest loss came at Los Alamitos Elementary, dropping 14 points to 923, but another school, J. H. McGaugh Elementaryhttp://www.losal.org/site/Default.aspx?PageID=3668 in Seal Beach, more than made up for that with a 20-point jump to 926.

Los Amigos High School (726)

The only Garden Grove Unified school in a Patch town, Los Amigos dropped 23 points to 726 this year.

Newport-Mesa Unified (838)

Newport-Mesa’s overall API dropped 4 points to 838 this year. Abraham Lincoln in Corona Del Mar dropped 21 points to 917, but that was counterbalanced by a rise of 28 points at Eastbluff Elementary in Newport Beach, which has a score of 920 now, catapulting itself over the 900-mark.

Saddleback Valley Unified (867)

Saddleback Valley’s API dropped by 4 points, to 867 this year. Big losses were seen at Linda Vista Elementary in Mission Viejo (-46 points to 761) and Del Lago Elementary in Mission Viejo (-30 to 821). Glen Yermo Elementary in Mission Viejo was a big winner, climbing 33 points, form 778 to 811.


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