By Karen Billing
Rancho Santa Fe School District has earned the highest district Academic Performance Index (API) in San Diego County in a year in which 82 percent of San Diego school districts saw drops in their API results.
For 2012-13, RSF had a district-wide API of 957 which, although it represents a three point drop, places the district ahead of neighboring Del Mar Union School District’s API of 954 and Solana Beach School District’s 936.
The RSF Elementary School’s API dropped six points, from 963 to 957, coming off a 13-point growth in 2011-12. The RSF Middle School, however, had its highest API ever with a 957 in a year where 60 percent of the top 10 middle schools in the county saw decreases.
“Overall, STAR test results went down and we were no exception,” said Superintendent Lindy Delaney at the board’s Sept. 12 meeting. “Although we never like to see scores drop, we think we’ve done a good job dissecting what went wrong in the areas that dropped…the scores are a good measurement tool to help our students be stronger educational learners. There are things to celebrate, but we weren’t immune to the dip.”
Assistant Superintendent Cindy Schaub said that possible reasons for the decline are that districts are beginning the transition to Common Core State Standards, as well as dealing with budgetary issues that fortunately RSF has been able to avoid due to “prudent financial management” and the district’s support from the RSF Education Foundation.
The district’s target is 90 percent overall proficient and advanced in each grade level and subject, Schaub said. In English language arts (ELA), the district hit over 90 percent everywhere but third grade, in which they scored 87 percent proficient and advanced.
In many cases, the district far out-paces the rest of the county as well as the state average.
“Our highs tend to be the highest in the state and the area where we didn’t meet our target is the lowest [miss] in the state and county,” Schaub said.
Schaub was referencing those third grade ELA scores, which at 87 percent proficient and advanced is well above the 52 percent average for San Diego County and 45 percent average statewide at third grade in ELA.
In math, the only two grade levels where the district did not meet its 90 percent proficiency target were sixth grade and eighth grade Algebra 1— sixth grade saw a significant decline from the year before, from 89 percent proficient to 79 percent.
“The sixth grade San Diego and statewide averages are suppressed as well,” Schaub said, noting the downward trend.
Schaub said the results show a strength in seventh grade math at RSF School compared to what is happening across the county and state. RSF scored 92 percent proficient compared to the county’s 55 percent average and the state’s 52 percent.
Where they have struggled, Delaney said she feels they have “pinpointed the cure” with added math intervention programs.
At last week’s meeting, Schaub gave an update on Assembly Bill 484, the bill to overhaul the state’s standardized testing system with new tests aligned with Common Core.
The bill passed on the Senate floor on Sept. 10 and is on its way to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. Should it be signed, the Measurement of Academic Performance and Progress (MAPP) would replace STAR in 2014-15. Once that change is enacted, API will no longer be calculated.
Schaub said what that will mean is there will be a one-year gap where there will be no pupil-level data for the 2013-14 school year. The Smarter Balance Assessment Consortium is preparing the new assessment tests, which will be computerized and given as field tests in spring 2014.
The U.S. Department of Education has objected to California’s one-year gap in testing and has said the state could face sanctions.
Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction who sponsored AB 484, stands by the bill.
“This legislation will continue to be guided by what’s right for California’s children —moving forward with instruction and assessments reflecting the deeper learning and critical thinking our students need to compete and win in a changing world,” Torlakson said in a statement. “Our goals for 21st century learning and the road ahead are clear. We won’t reach them by continuing to look in the rear-view mirror with outdated tests, no matter how it sits with officials in Washington.”