Report card: 3 schools improve, but 2 slump | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Report card: 3 schools improve, but 2 slump

William Ferchland

A state progress report on thousands of public schools in California revealed three schools in Lake Tahoe Unified School District making academic improvement while two elementary schools dropped in scores.

The scores, released last week by the California Department of Education, revealed a detriment to the district from two elementary schools, Al Tahoe and Meyers, closing last year.

The closure of the sites for financial reasons sent students to the remaining three schools, which experienced overcrowding and a shakeup of teacher assignments, among other things.

“When you’re changing (school) boundaries and moving kids it takes awhile to assimilate, to have an effective academic program,” Superintendent Jim Tarwater said. “And now things have settled and each year we’ll keep building and progressing.”

The overcrowding at the elementary schools alleviated somewhat with the September opening of the Meyers site which was reincarnated as the Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School.

But the most crowded elementary site last year, Tahoe Valley, which had around 700 students, showed vast improvement with a 52-point jump in the Academic Performance Index, upping their mark to 773.

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The state’s goal for all schools is 800 or above. Scores are based on results from state tests taken in spring 2005 by students in grades two through 11.

Tahoe Valley Principal Mark Romagnolo was pleased with the school’s increase but took it with a grain of salt. The school’s population experienced a 60 percent influx of new students last year.

“It was a whole different group of kids,” he said.

This year, in part to the magnet school opening, 200 students left the school, Romagnolo said.

Thinking the school has stabilized with an enrollment of 511 students, Romagnolo will use API scores from test results this spring for a baseline.

The biggest jump went to South Tahoe High School. The school gained 53 points for a mark of 706.

Principal Marcia Kaster attributed the increase to a campaign letting students know the importance of state assessments and a smaller test-taking environment.

In the year before the school closures Sierra House Elementary exceeded the state’s benchmark with an API score of 813. The school fell by 69 points to 744.

The drop affected the school’s ranking to other schools, a piece of information included in the API results. Compared to all California public schools and schools with similar characteristics and demographics scores from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) were given.

For example, in 2004 when Sierra House Elementary scored an 813, its statewide and similar schools rankings were at eight. For its 2005 results its rank to all schools was five. For it’s rank to similar schools – which includes factors such as number of credentialed teachers, average class size and ethnicity, socioeconomic status and the number of English learners in its student population – it was a four.

Tahoe Valley received the highest score when it was given an eight in comparison to similar scores. Bijou, likely because it fell 39 points from 677 to a 2005 score of 638, received a statewide school rank of one and a rank of two when compared to similar schools.

API scores are the state’s version of keeping tabs on its schools. Another academic evaluator is Adequate Yearly Progress. That model is used by federal officials in determining how well a school is performing under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Two new subgroups were included in the API scores to align it with the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires public school districts to The new subgroups are English learners and students with disabilities.

The percentage of the state’s elementary schools at or above 800 is 31.6 percent, according to the California Department of Education. More than 20 percent of state middle schools met or surpassed the benchmark and high schools are at 11.8 percent.

“California schools continue to make solid academic gains,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said. “The API is a powerful tool to hold our schools accountable for progress I encourage parents, students, educators and the public to review the API ranking for schools in their community.”

API Scores

Academic Performance Index (API) scores are used by California to determine a school’s academic progress on state tests. Scores range from 200 to 800.

School 2005 2004 Difference

Bijou Elementary 638 677 – 39

Sierra House Elementary 744 813 – 69

Tahoe Valley Elementary 773 721 +52

South Tahoe Middle 720 708 +12

South Tahoe High 706 653 +53