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Several struggling Mid-Valley elementary schools shine
Highest API Scores, Sutter and Yuba counties
914 Browns Valley Elementary.
899 Twin Rivers Charter.
881 Butte Vista Elementary.
881 Rio Del Oro Elementary.
879 Pleasant Grove Elementary.
877 Covillaud Elementary.
877 Lincoln Elementary.
873 Marysville Charter Academy for the Arts.
870 Cobblestone Elementary.
870 Franklin Elementary.
New 800-point schools
823 up from 791 Foothill Intermediate.
810 up from 797 Brittan Elementary.
809 up from 773 Central Gaither Elementary.
805 up from 767 Anna McKenney Intermediate.
802 up from 764 Edgewater Elementary.
East Nicolaus High 808 up from 800.
Wheatland Union High 784 up from 747.
Live Oak High 779 up from 772.
Sutter High 761 up from 741.
River Valley High 757 down from 763.
Yuba City High 745 down from 763.
Marysville High 741 up from 739.
Lindhurst High 698 down from 711.
Several Mid-Valley elementary schools with hard-to-reach populations made strides in test score performance last year, boosting Academic Performance Index scores for 2011-12 significantly over the previous year.
But scores for area high schools continued to hit below 800, the state's proficiency mark.
The API scores, a measurement of academic performance and progress of schools in California, were released to schools on Wednesday and to the public on Thursday.
Among area schools with large numbers of students categorized as English learners or considered by the state to be socio-economically disadvantaged, single-year standouts include Central Gaither Elementary, South of Yuba City, and Covillaud Elementary in Marysville.
Both of those schools saw a 36-point bump in API scores. The state's scores, which are tied closely to federal Adequate Yearly Performance standards as set by the No Child Left Behind Act, range from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000.
Central Gaither has a student population that is 91 percent socioeconomically disadvantaged and 61 percent categorized as English learners — those whose native language is not English. The school's API score improved from 773 API points the previous year to 809 in 2011-12. "The most exciting part," said Central Gaither Principal Debbie Everett of her school's data, "is it shows students that may not have shown progress before, showed significant progress this year."
Lennie Tate, executive director of educational services for the Marysville district, said she has been impressed by the overall trend of API point growth from Marysville Joint Unified School District schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Since the start of the yearly measure — part of the 1999 Public Schools Accountability Act — Covillaud and Arboga Elementary schools have increased their scores more than 340 points.
"It's really tough to look at just one year at a time," Tate said of the sometimes aberrant ups and downs registered in the course of a single school year. "It's nice to be able to see a trend line."
Likewise, Kynoch Elementary's 825 API score is the same as last year. But the mark is a far cry from the 582 its students scored in 1999.
Covillaud and Arboga, Tate said, have a friendly annual rivalry going because of their similar demographics and steady progress.
"At meetings, you'll see the principals eyeballing each other. It's very competitive, but in a good way," she said.
Last year, Arboga's increase over the previous year trumped Covillaud's.
This year they reversed, with Covillaud's score jumping from 841 to 877.
"They're still making huge point gains. It's crazy," Tate said. Only Browns Valley Elementary's score of 914 was higher than Covillaud's.
In Yuba City Unified Schools, Gray Avenue Middle is among the unsung heroes of improvement trends, said Kelle Nelson, coordinator for assessment and accountability.
By AYP standards, Gray Avenue is classified as a school in need of improvement, having missed federally set targets for five consecutive years.
But this time around, the school met each of those 21 targets, and scored 799 — just a single point shy of the proficiency mark, and 19 points higher than the previous school year. Gray Avenue's student body is 89 percent disadvantaged with a 63 percent Hispanic population, 42 percent of whom were considered English learners last year.
Another year of improvements will remove the school from No Child Left Behind's improvement program.
"That's huge. And some of those demographics make it even more phenomenal," Nelson said.
Scores for a couple of alternative, or "continuation" schools, made significant jumps over the previous year. Feather River Academy, which falls under the Sutter County Office of Education, bumped its score 146 points from 384 to 530; and MJUSD's North Marysville Continuation High improved by 115 points, from 491 to 606.
Students at such schools, said Tate, "come with credit deficiencies and a lot of struggles."
Some of the area's smaller school districts saw significant changes in API scores over the previous year.
On the plus side, the Plumas Lake Elementary District saw a jump in scores at Cobblestone Elementary, which leaped by 51 API points in one year from 819 to 870. Riverside Meadows Intermediate School, also in that district, jumped by 49 points from 793 to 842.
Meridian Elementary School's API score plummeted over the previous year by 91 points, from 822 to 731.
That school averages fewer than 100 students and is the only school in the Meridian Elementary district. No one there could be reached for comment Thursday.
And traditional high schools in the area continue to fall below the proficiency line.
Of the eight such schools in Yuba and Sutter counties, only East Nicolaus students breached the mark. The school scored 808 API points.
Tate said administrators are wise to keep all scores in perspective.
State and federal markers continue to move upward, sometimes keeping target goals for scores just out of reach.
"And once you get over 800, it's so much harder to make big growth spurts," she said.
Test scores are but one measure of success.
"If the goal is to have all our students go out and be creative, critical thinkers," Tate said, "well, that might be different."
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at email@example.com or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.