Schools inch toward test benchmark, others lag behind |

Schools inch toward test benchmark, others lag behind

William Ferchland

Four schools in Lake Tahoe Unified School District have achieved or approached California’s benchmark for educational excellence, according to scores released Tuesday.

But the scores are based on tests administered last year, when the district had five elementary schools. Budget cuts closed two elementary sites and caused a student demographic shake-up before the start of this school year which officials expect will likely induce different results a year from now.

Sierra House Elementary did the best by scoring 13 points past the state’s target of 800 on the Academic Performance Index, a component used by the state to determine academic progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Scores range from 200 to 1,000. Twenty-one percent of all schools in California had marks higher than 800, according to the California Department of Education.

“The API is a powerful tool for holding our schools publicly accountable for student achievement and setting measurable goals for improvement each year,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

Included in the results were rankings, from a low of 1 to a high of 10, comparing sites to similar schools and schools statewide.

Sierra House again achieved the best comparisons among district schools, with a mark of eight on both rankings.

Mark Romagnolo, who was principal of Sierra House last year but the head of Tahoe Valley Elementary this year, was proud of the achievements of his former school. He attributed the success to small class sizes that are now a memory because of the termination of class-size reduction this year.

“I think it was a good group of students and a great group of teachers who were focusing on the subgroups that we needed to improve upon the year before,” Romagnolo said.

Scores were also broken down to student subgroups, such as Caucasian, Hispanic or Latino and socioeconomically disadvantaged.

As a whole the district scored 695. The highest score, again districtwide, in the student subgroups was Caucasian students with a mark of 747 while Hispanics or Latinos had the lowest with a 597 score.

Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis said each elementary site improved its similar-school rankings. Each site is compared to other schools with similar characteristics such as average class size, portion of students learning English and experience of teachers.

The district has undergone several years of program cuts and staff reductions forced by declining enrollment, but Davis was still satisfied with the results.

“Academic success for all students continues to be the goal of LTUSD,” she said.

The scores are based on a variety of tests taken in May. School officials know the reconfiguration of the elementary schools will have an impact on next year’s scores.

“It’s apples and oranges,” Romagnolo said, adding Tahoe Valley’s student population has changed 60 percent from what it was last year.

– E-mail William Ferchland at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.