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A closer look at Academic Performance Index scores in Contra Costa County districts

Students work quietly in a Richmond College Prep classroom. The school received an API score of 828 this year, soaring 33 points.

Students work quietly in a Richmond College Prep classroom. The school received an API score of 828 this year, soaring 33 points.

When it comes to test scores, the Academic Performance Index, or API, is considered by many to be the most important rating a California school receives. Based on standardized tests scores taken by students in grades 2-11 in the spring, the API is a composite number between a low of 200 and a high of 1,000 that shows how schools throughout the state compare to each other.

Since the scoring system was created, schools and districts have tried to reach a score of 800, considered by the state to mean most students are working at grade level. This year, 11 Contra Costa County districts achieved this goal.

But the federal government’s No Child Left Behind law measures schools according to a harder-to-reach bar. This year, 90 percent of students were required to score proficient on math and English language arts tests to meet this standard.

Those who fail to meet the standard for two years in a row are placed in federal Program Improvement and required to implement interventions. This year, 10 Contra Costa districts were in Program Improvement.

Here’s a side by side comparison of county district API scores in 2012 and 2013, showing growth or decline:

Acalanes 904 908 -4 No
Antioch 740 746 -6 Yes
Brentwood 861 859 +2 Yes
Byron 846 836 +10 No
Canyon 874 876 -2 No
John Swett 745 751 -6 Yes
Knightsen 816 840 -24 No
Lafayette 934 938 -4 No
Liberty 794 785 +9 No
Martinez 836 844 -8 Yes
Moraga 955 964 -9 No
Mt. Diablo 791 794 -3 Yes
Oakley 799 816 -17 Yes
Orinda 958 967 -9 No
Pittsburg 733 738 -5 Yes
San Ramon 923 928 -5 Yes
Walnut Creek 906 915 -9 Yes
West Contra Costa 717 715 +2 Yes
CALIFORNIA 789 791 -2 N/A

Districts that failed to meet the state API score of 800 were Antioch, John Swett, Liberty, Mt. Diablo, Oakley, Pittsburg and West Contra Costa. Stephanie Anello, associate superintendent of educational services in Antioch, said the district’s dip in scores came as a surprise, after teachers had been assessing students every six weeks throughout the year and principals increased classroom observations.

“It’s very disappointing, we felt we were headed in the right direction,” she said. “We’re trying to look for patterns to see what happened, but we don’t see one. For now, we are just going to have to use it to strengthen our resolve and focus on the quality of teaching that happens every single day.”

No schools in the John Swett district surpassed the state’s target of 800. In the Liberty district, one of four comprehensive high schools met that goal.

Mt. Diablo’s API score dropped three points to 791. Interim Superintendent John Bernard sent a message to the community saying the district is continuing to train teachers and administrators in the new Common Core curriculum standards, which focus on critical thinking and problem-solving.

Oakley’s API score dropped 17 points and nearly all schools in the district also saw double-digit declines, with the exception of Vintage Parkway Elementary, which posted a 14-point gain to 831. Anne Allen, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, said the district has assigned a second teacher to work as a full-time math coach at elementary grades and another to serve as a part-time middle school literacy coach.

The Pittsburg district’s score fell five points to 733, with only three of 12 comprehensive schools reaching the state’s proficiency target. The West Contra Costa district was one of four in the county to improve its API score, rising two points to 717.

“We’re happy to show improvement,” said Nia Raschidchi, assistant superintendent of educational services.

Here’s a link to the Contra Costa Times’ searchable database of API scores for all schools and districts in the state:

Staff writers Paul Burgarino and Rowena Coetseee contributed to this report.

What do you think lower-performing districts should do to improve student achievement?

Posted on Friday, August 30th, 2013
Under: Contra Costa County, Education, Liberty district, Mt. Diablo school district, Oakley district, Paul Burgarino, Pittsburg school district, Rowena Coetsee | 64 Comments »

Catholic colleges oppose federal law, arsons on Antioch campuses and school closure debate in Oakland

Although this blog typically focuses on education news in Contra Costa County with an emphasis on the Mt. Diablo school district, I would like to throw a few other regional stories out this week for discussion:

Higher education reporter Matt Krupnick reports that Bay Area Catholic colleges are joining a fight against a new federal law that requires health plans to cover birth control. They argue the law violates their rights to oppose contraception:

Do you think Catholic colleges should comply with the law by providing contraception to students?

Antioch reporter Paul Burgarino reports that arsonists have struck two elementary schools, decimating the play structure at one and damaging the wall of a multiuse room at another:

“When the kids saw (the burned play structure), their faces fell,” said Lone Tree Elementary Principal Patty Ward. “You could see some of them were in tears and just asking why this happened.”

What do you think the community can do to try to prevent such incidents in the future?

Oakland schools reporter Katy Murphy reports that some members of the Oakland school board are having second thoughts about a plan to close five elementary schools to save $2 million:

This year, the Mt. Diablo school district in Contra Costa County closed one elementary school and one middle school in an attempt to save $1.5 million, along with other cost-cutting and revenue generating strategies.

Like the Mt. Diablo district, Oakland has experienced declining enrollment. Many Oakland students have also moved out of the district or transferred to charter schools that are not district-operated.

Do you believe it makes sense to close schools in districts with declining enrollment?

Posted on Sunday, October 16th, 2011
Under: Antioch school district, Education, Katy Murphy, Matt Krupnick, Mt. Diablo school district, Oakland school district, Paul Burgarino | 9 Comments »

Remembering 9/11

President George W. Bush declared Sept. 11 as Patriot Day to remember the terrorist attacks and those who died. The state Legislature also recognized Sept. 11 as a Day of Remembrance and Service.

Most American adults recall seeing vivid TV images of planes plowing into seemingly impenetrable buildings, hearing about heroic rescues and learning about thousands of senseless deaths on Sept. 11, 2001.

But many of today’s students were so young they didn’t fully comprehend what was going on. Or they weren’t born yet.

To help them understand what happened, some East Bay teachers and students have shared their memories during the past week.

At Walnut Creek Intermediate, teacher Kandi Lancaster told her seventh-grade history students that she received a 6 a.m. phone call from her daughter, who was a flight attendant, that morning, telling her about the attacks and saying she was OK. Lancaster’s husband, who regularly flew on Flight 93 for business, was in Canada on a trip.

Lancaster said she watched TV coverage of the event all day and realized at 4:30 p.m. that she was still in her bathrobe. When she returned to school the next day, she said she was able to share what happened with her students, because she had watched it unfold.

She told her students that they would always remember where they were on Sept. 11, just as she remembered that she was in seventh grade when President John F. Kennedy was shot.

In Brian Rodriguez’ Advanced Placement U.S. History class at Encinal High in Alameda, student Susannah Champlin — who was 7 at the time — remembered her parents coming home from work early.

“They were both shaking,” said Champlin, now 17. “There was a real heightened sense of paranoia, like ‘What if there was another attack?’ ”

After watching the disturbing footage over and over, Susannah said, they decided to turn off the TV and do something as a family. They baked cookies and delivered them to all of their neighbors, some of whom they barely knew.

Co-principal Jonathan Osler said he lived in New York City at the time. The attack happened on his first day teaching in a Brooklyn school classroom. He recalled the confusion and panic that consumed the school.

But he, too, commented on ways in which the horrific event seemed to bring people together — even in small ways — like saying “hello” to a passer-by on the street.

“It just felt that people realized that in order to get past something that horrible,” he said, “we needed to support each other.”

At Freedom High in Oakley, senior Alyssa Hagen, 17, said she still remembers her mother and father crying in front of the television, but telling her nothing was wrong, when she asked about their tears.

“Like a lot of kids,” she said, “I didn’t understand.”

Leadership students at Antioch’s Park Middle School created banners in memory of 9/11 and encouraged students to wear gray string around their wrists to remember those who died.

Student Jenna Wallace said 9/11 was especially significant to her because her aunt was walking out of the World Trade Center when it was struck. Her aunt survived and Jenna said her family started talking about 9/11 a couple of years later.

The Parent Teacher Association at Dallas Ranch Middle School in Antioch plans to host a family-style picnic Sunday to commemorate Patriot Day. Local Boy Scouts troops will hold a flag ceremony and police have been invited for lunch.

Antioch police Lt. Robin Kelley said she planned to attend.

“I think it’s important to be there just as a symbol,” Kelley said, “to let people kind of just let go.”

During this time of year, people will come up to officers and thank them, but they’re really thanking the uniform, she said.

Kelley vividly remembers sitting in front of the television on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, in shock at the images.

“I was in tears, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Kelley, who was pregnant with her first child at the time.

Now, the mother of three said that when her family sees a veteran, they thank him or her for their service.

How will you remember 9/11 on its tenth anniversary?

Staff writers Katy Murphy and Paul Burgarino contributed to this report.

Posted on Friday, September 9th, 2011
Under: Education, Katy Murphy, Paul Burgarino | No Comments »

Pittsburg school district gets new superintendent

This just in from Pittsburg reporter Paul Burgarino:
In hopes of keeping the Pittsburg school district on course, trustees have selected a new superintendent from within.
Linda Rondeau, the current deputy superintendent, will replace Barbara Wilson effective Aug. 1.
Rondeau has worked in several Contra Costa districts over the past 35 years, the last five in Pittsburg.
Pittsburg trustees say they felt confident — following a public survey and thorough input from district stakeholders and the community — that Pittsburg schools are going in the right direction.
Board President Vince Ferrante backed that up, saying Rondeau: “could hit the ground running and build upon the momentum of the past few years.”
Contract terms still have to be settled.
Watch for more information Thursday in the East County Times.
Reach Paul Burgarino at Follow him on Twitter at

Posted on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010
Under: Education, Paul Burgarino, Pittsburg | No Comments »