San Pasqual School District making academic gains
WINTERHAVEN - While some of Yuma County's schools have been working hard to shed their "underperforming" status, San Pasqual High School has been doing the same thing over in California.
The San Pasqual Valley Unified School District - including an elementary, middle and high school - is, as a whole, California's equivalent of an "underperforming" school.
"Three years ago, the district was put under a school improvement plan that the state puts on schools that don't show significant growth over a period of time," said Superintendent Dave Schoneman.
But the district is on the mend, as each of its schools have shown improvement on their standardized test scores over the last year, Schoneman said.
"The high school actually got a gain of 10 points, which doesn't seem like a lot, but that's after a trend of reducing scores," Schoneman said. "Our middle school has shown a dramatic increase - a 59-point gain - and the elementary school had a 47-point gain over last year."
Three years ago, the Academic Performance Index, based mainly on results from California's standards-based tests, was implemented in California schools in order to measure academic performance and growth.
Schools were assigned an API number between 200 and 1,000, with a statewide performance target of 800. California schools with a score below 800 were given a growth target for the next year, while schools at or above 800 were expected to maintain an API above 800.
Schools with APIs below 800, such as all three San Pasqual schools, and those that improve their performance are eligible to receive state funding, while schools that continue to fall below their targets will lose that funding and be subject to state sanctions, which could include the state coming in and taking over the school or district.
"They will give you extra funds to intervene and get your scores going in the right direction to assist you, but if your scores continue to go down, there is the possibility that the state would come in and take over all or part of the school district, and do what needs to be done with the power of the state to make changes to get those test scores moving," Schoneman said. "If we can continue to show improvement in the 2003-04 school year, then we'll probably be clear of potential state sanctions."
The API also serves as an indicator of 'adequate yearly progress' under the accountability requirements of the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind initiative. To make AYP on this measure, schools must have an API score of 560 or higher. If the API is below 560, the school must make at least one point growth per school year to avoid state sanctions.
San Pasqual High School is currently at an API of 490, while the middle school is at 534 and the elementary school at 624.
"The work we're doing at the middle and elementary schools is starting to move the whole district up," Schoneman said. "Our minimum growth goal this year is 16 points from our school district, and I'm very optimistic that we're going to get that."
Schoneman attributes the recent growth of the district to the teachers, who have "really adopted the curriculum that the district has set up and are doing a fine job of delivering that instruction."
"We rewrote the curriculum and our teachers were right there with us rewriting it," he said. "The teachers are also doing a really good job identifying kids who may need extra help and working them into some of the intervention classes that we've got going."
Schoneman also gives credit to the Imperial County Office of Education.
"With their support of the district and their assistance in all of the different areas, they have really mentored us with regard to curriculum and instruction, also with test taking and how the scores and things work and what to watch out for," he said. "Also, they've worked very closely with our principals as they grow to be stronger administrators."
Eighty percent of the API at the elementary and middle school level comes from the California Standards Tests in English language arts and mathematics. At the high school level, 73 percent comes from the California Standards Tests in English language arts, mathematics, and history-social science, while 15 percent comes from the California High School Exit Exam.
The remainder of the API is based on the results from a new norm-referenced test, the California Achievement Test.