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Magnet school posts strong performance in its first year; Tahoe Valley Elementary sees decline in its score

William Ferchland

Receiving its own report card from the state, Lake Tahoe Unified School District showed mixed academic performance from its schools.

Perhaps the most surprising was Tahoe Valley Elementary School, which the previous year had the highest score on the state’s Academic Performance Index among district schools at 773. The state’s goal for all schools is to reach 800 on the API.

With a state-mandated goal of increasing its score by one point for the 2005-06 school year, Tahoe Valley instead dropped 46 points to a score of 727.

No other school had a drop in its score from the previous year, but some failed to meet their growth target set by the state. Bijou Community School went from 638 to 644, just two points shy of meeting their eight-point growth target.

Released last week for the 2005-06 school year, the API is an index ranging from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000. A school’s annual growth target is set at 5 percent of the difference between the school’s base API and the statewide performance target of 800, according to the California Department of Education.

By law, significant student subgroups within a school must also make improvement for a school to meet its API targets. These subgroups include ethnic subgroups, socio-economically disadvantaged students and, for the first time in 2006, English learners and students with disabilities, the state education department stated.

“The state and federal accountability systems provide important information about public school performance,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell. “They show that California schools are making steady progress in raising student achievement but that we must continue to focus on closing the achievement gap.”

Although it met its API growth target fourfold, only one student subgroup at South Tahoe Middle School didn’t meet its target.

Caucasian and socioeconomically disadvantaged student subgroups at Tahoe Valley Elementary didn’t meet their growth goals, while socioeconomically disadvantaged students at Bijou didn’t meet their academic requirement.

Regarding the drop in Caucasian student scores at Tahoe Valley, Superintendent Jim Tarwater reasoned it was from academically gifted students leaving the school for the Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School.

Despite the bad marks, the district has reason to celebrate. Hispanic students, a subgroup the district has intently concentrated on improving academic performance, met growth targets at all schools.

But the gleam in Tarwater’s eyes was the API score of 839 for the Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School and the jump of Sierra House’s score. In its first year of operation at the former Meyers Elementary site, the magnet school blew by Tarwater’s goal of 750.

“We’re moving,” he said. “Some (are) faster up the trail, but we’re moving.”

Tarwater said the information will be analyzed to help learn which students or schools need assistance.

The state’s average API score grew 11 points from 709 to 720. Approximately 52 percent of public schools in California met all their API growth targets, a decline from last year’s 68 percent.

Tarwater gave the district a grade of B-minus for achievement and B-plus for growth “because effort and high expectations go together and that’s coming through.”

Results from California’s Accountability Progress Report

The good news

— Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School exceeded the state’s goal of 800 on the Academic Performance Index with a score of 839 after its first year of operation.

— Sierra House Elementary had the biggest gain, jumping 26 points from 744 to 770.

— Student subgroups that showed the most gains in academic performance are Hispanic, English learners and socioeconomically disadvantaged.

The bad news

— After being the school with highest score in the district last year with 773, Tahoe Valley Elementary tumbled 46 points to 727.

— Students with disabilities improved slightly, going from 529 to 532.

— Bijou Community School and South Tahoe Middle School remain in the third year of program in need of improvement

Source: California Department of Education

For more information, visit http://www.cde.ca.gov/apr


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