Scoring schools from 200 to 1,000, the California Department of Education scores schools to give them an idea of how much they need to improve their student’s scores during spring testing. Currently the state standard is a score of 800. Those scores are then measured in August to assess the progress schools and district’s have made in their academic performance well as in closing gaps among groups of students. Vicki Engbrecht, assistant superintendent of curriculum at the Hart Union High School District said while the district’s average API of 783 is hovering close to the state standard – there is always room for improvement. “Every school in the district has set its own goals for API improvment and in every case it is higher than the challenge posed by the state,” Engbrecht said. SANTA CLARITA – Schools in the valley, noted for above average student performance, maintained that standard and will not have to work too hard during April’s week-long testing to stay in line with the state standards, according to state test results released this week. However, a new focus this year on lower-performing groups of students, including minorities, English learners, students with disabilities and students from low-income families, revealed that Santa Clarita is not immune to the nationwide issue of achievement gaps. Most local schools, grades K through 12, generally landed in the “above average” and “well above average” ranking in the 2006 base Academic Performance Index, but traditionally lower performing students lagged up to 200 points behind their peers – in line with state trends. The API scores, embargoed until this morning, were released just weeks before April’s week-long state testing, that includes STAR testing and the high school exit exam. For the Hart district, whose black and Latino students scored 710 and 703, respectively, the disparity is something the district is aware of and working with, Engbrecht said. “This is not a surprise to this district. We are trying to make sure that no student falls through the cracks and for both African-American students and Hispanic students the gap has decreased in the district,” Engbrecht said. She added that district programs, like the summer intensive reading program, are specifically adressing the issue. The district also struggled with the score of its “disadvantaged” students, defined as students whose parents’ education level is significantly low or those who qualify for the free or reduced-cost lunch program, these students had an average API score of 637. English learners scored 696 on average and students with disabilities scored 546. The API system, established in 1999, measures student performance in standardized tests, compares schools of similar socio-economic status and sets targets for improvement. This year, state schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell changed the state’s formula for lower performing students. Before these students were expected to improve by 80 percent of their school’s overall target. Now these students will be expected to improve by 5 percent every year until they reach the state standard of 800. O’Connell explained that this was a way to hold schools accountable for the performance of the students who are struggling the most. “While our schools are showing a steady overall progress, I am deeply concerned that significant gaps exist between the API results for different subgroups of students,” O’Connell said in a press release. “I have begun an intensive effort to find ways to close the gap that exists between successful students who are often white or Asian and financially well off, and struggling students who are often poor, Hispanic, African-American, English learners or with a disability.” In the Newhall Elementary School District – Santa Clarita’s most ethnically diverse – the achievment gap is visible. While the district had an above average API of 866 at Stevenson Ranch Elementary, a predominantly white and Asian school, scores peaked at 936, placing the school in the top 10 percent of elementary schools in the state. At McGrath Elementary, where the academic calendar is adjusted to include up to six extra weeks for at-risk students, the API score landed at 759 – a big improvment from last year’s score of 745 but still below the Newhall district average. But Marc Winger, Newhall district’s superintendent, said the achievment gap is not an ethnicity issue. “It is not an ethnicity thing it is a wealth thing,” Winger said. “When you have a school like Stevenson Ranch, where you have huge parent involvement and parent education levels go beyond college, those kids do well. You have a much bigger challenge when you have parents that are working a couple of jobs who may not have gotten through high school and don’t know how to model for their children.” Winger added that for a school like McGrath it is all about involved teachers and staff who are willing to go the extra mile for students. At McGrath after-school programs have helped inch the school’s API scores upward, as do weekly assessments of children’s progress, Winger added that he deals with his diverse district by looking at every school through a growth model. “Everybody has to move forward, it doesn’t matter who you are. [email protected] (661) 257-5254160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!