Schools dazed by test results

At a time when the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District faces severe budget cuts, recently released results of the 1999 Academic Performance Index gave some cause for cheer.

The first-ever ranking of the state’s public schools, based on results of the STAR Program achievement test, brought joy to some Los Angeles County school districts and grief to others.

The API is a primary component of the Public Schools Accountability Act, signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis in April 1999. It establishes the baseline for a school’s academic performance and sets annual targets for growth. Only results of the Stanford 9 test, given last spring, were used to calculate each school’s API scores for 1999. The state has set 800 as the API score that schools should strive to meet.

As might be expected, schools in affluent districts fared best, with Beverly Hills, Las Virgenes, Palos Verdes Peninsula, San Marino and Santa Monica-Malibu school districts having more than one elementary, middle or high school ranked among the county’s top 10. Malibu High School ranked No. 10 with a score of 793 and Lincoln ranked No. 8 among middle schools with 830.

Among Malibu elementary schools, Point Dume was highest with 856, Webster was second with 824 and Cabrillo was third with 792.

No separate score was released for Malibu Middle School, which is considered part of Malibu High School. Juli DiChiro, district director of Standards, Assessment and Evaluation, said, “The state reported the breakdown as Malibu Middle School 817 and Malibu High School 766. The listed score of 793 is a composite of the two.” Middle schools are tested more like elementary schools — more heavily weighted in English and language skills. High schools include tests for science, which lower grades do not, DiChiro added.

In addition to the API score, each school’s report includes its 1999 statewide rank, how that rank compares with similar schools, the 1999-2000 growth target and the target for 2000-01.

The district Board of Education voted unanimously last week to adopt the API, which will become part of the Standards-Based Accountability System currently used by the district. This will allow the board to monitor the progress of each of the district’s schools in meeting state-mandated performance targets.

Palos Verdes Unified had five schools among the top 10 in L.A. County; Las Virgenes had four (Agoura and Calabasas high schools, A. E. Wright and Lindero Canyon middle schools); San Marino Unified had four; Beverly Hills High School ranked No. 7 with a score of 820, but that district’s elementary and middle schools were not in the top 10.

The highest score in the county was a 966 — ABC Unified District’s Whitney High School; lowest was 311 — Los Angeles Unified’s Holmes Avenue.

While Los Angeles Unified had five elementary schools scoring 891 and higher, its middle and high schools did not make the top 10, and all of the lowest ranked schools, with scores in the 300 to low 400 range, were in the Los Angeles or Compton school districts.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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