The August 29th release of the California’s Academic Performance Index report once again validated the strong academic performance of the ten elementary schools within the Newhall School District.
The API, based solely on test scores, is one indicator of school quality, but it is not the only indicator. School quality should also be judged by outstanding student support programs, a high level of parent involvement and satisfaction, and programs such as Newhall’s visual arts and music classes – all of which are not included in the API, yet contribute to Newhall’s excellence.
As reported by the California Department of Education, Newhall’s district-wide API is 905. In 2011 Newhall was the first district in the SCV to break the 900 mark on this 1000 point scale. It remains the only local district performing at that level and its API has been the highest in the Santa Clarita Valley for the last ten years. This year five schools in the district exceeded 900, including Stevenson Ranch, which earned an API of 978, the highest individual school result in the SCV.
“The district’s achievement is a testament to the dedication and excellent work of our students, teachers, administrators, and families. This year we set another benchmark with half of our schools scoring over 900 and every other school well over the State’s goal of 800,” said Phil Ellis, president of the district’s Governing Board. “Continuing to achieve at this level year after year is an incredible feat, especially when one considers the instructional challenges we face with a diverse student population that includes about 30% English Language Learners,”
Nancy Copley, assistant superintendent of instruction for Newhall, said there are many factors that contribute to the district’s academic success. “We have been training teachers in effective instructional methods for every student and we have been concentrating on the needs of English language learners. 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.”
“It is a huge challenge to insure that certain groups, especially those with limited English skills or those living in poverty, reach proficiency,” said Marc Winger, district superintendent. “The fact that we continue to far exceed 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.”
About thirty percent of the students in the Newhall district 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 more than half of the student population. These schools also have some of the highest levels of students living in poverty in the Santa Clarita Valley.
The school wide index at sites heavily 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 APIs at Newhall and McGrath Schools tell this story. While the schoolwide index of at both sites is above the statewide goal and in the 800s, Anglo students at the sites actually achieved some of the highest APIs in the district and every site’s Anglo population exceeded 900.
“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 API for Anglo students at Newhall and McGrath, where Hispanics make up over 85% of the populations, 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.”
The API will be changing in the coming years to reflect a larger set of quality indicators and a new assessment that will reflect the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics.