Wednesday’s release of the California’s Academic Performance Index (API) report validates the strong performance of the ten elementary schools within the Newhall School District. Newhall’s district-wide API increased significantly from 896 last year to 903 this year, making it the first district in the Santa Clarita Valley to break the 900 mark. The district’s API has steadily increased for the last eight years and it once again is the highest ranking school district in the Santa Clarita Valley. Newhall has topped the Santa Clarita Valley’s district API list for the last seven years.
“Exceeding 900 on the state’s 1000 point scale is a precedent-setting milestone and an incredible feat, especially when one considers the education funding crisis we have been dealing with and the instructional challenges we face with a student population that includes about 30% English Language Learners,” said Marc Winger, district superintendent. “The 903 district API is a testament to the dedication and excellent work of our students, teachers, administrators, and families. We are, of course, very proud of our top scoring schools’ achievements but this is not just about our top scoring schools pulling others along. This is about all schools in the district moving up the achievement levels of all students.”
The API is based on the State’s STAR testing so the results came as no surprise to Newhall administrators who have been analyzing STAR scores since they were released in August.
Nancy Copley, assistant superintendent of instruction for Newhall, said there are many factors that contribute to the district’s success. “We have been training teachers in a coherent writing program for seven years. Writing is such a powerful skill that it affects every other aspect of achievement and we are seeing the results. We have also been concentrating on the academic needs of English Language Learners and training teachers in effective instructional methods for these students. Our teachers have effective instructional techniques and work very hard, at every site, to take all children to their highest potential. The API is a validation of their efforts.”
The current API in the Newhall district is an admirable accomplishment in a district where about 30% of the students have limited English skills. At some sites (McGrath, Newhall, Wiley Canyon, Old Orchard, and Peachland Schools) the limited English speaking students make up a third to a half of the student population. These schools also have some of the highest level of students living in poverty in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The school wide index at sites impacted by limited English speaking students often masks even stronger achievement among other groups. If one peels apart the API, one finds that nsd’s Anglo students, generally unencumbered by language barriers, are doing extraordinarily well. The API at the district’s namesake school, Newhall Elementary, tells this story. While the schoolwide index of 808 is above the statewide goal of 800, Anglo students at the site actually achieved an API of 926, placing them solidly among Anglo students at the district’s other schools. (Table below).
“Our Anglo student group does extraordinarily well at every site, including Newhall, Peachland, Old Orchard, McGrath, and Wiley Canyon Schools, where they are in the minority,” said Winger. “The 926 Anglo student API at Newhall School, where Hispanics make up almost 75% of the population, proves the point. While our Hispanic student group, made up of high numbers of limited English speakers, presents us with our biggest instructional challenge, we clearly meet the needs of all students in all of our schools.”
“It is a huge challenge to insure that certain groups, especially those with limited English skills or those living below the poverty line, reach proficiency in the required numbers,” said Suzan Solomon, president of the district’s Governing Board. “The fact that we continue to reach overall State goals, even with large numbers of students who, by definition, should not be proficient because of their language limitations, is a tribute to our hard working teachers and effective principals. We are very proud of the job our staff does at all our schools.”
Click on the table below to enlarge.