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Ventura County Schools Gain on State Rankings

Nearly twice the number of local campuses meet a key testing target in 2003 as made it the year before.

March 10, 2004|Fred Alvarez | Times Staff Writer

Almost one-third of Ventura County schools last year surpassed a stringent state target set for academic accomplishment, nearly twice the number of local campuses that achieved that distinction the year before, according to new California school rankings.

Sixty schools posted scores of 800 or better on the 2003 Academic Performance Index, the state's annual measure of academic progress. In 2002, only 36 local schools met that target -- one of the state's primary performance goals.

Overall, Ventura County students continue to outpace their peers across the state, with nearly 60% of local schools performing better than the statewide average, according to rankings released Tuesday.

Education officials said while new testing criteria and other factors made it difficult to draw year-to-year comparisons, the 2003 results generally pointed to gains for local schoolchildren.

"It's excellent news," said Charles Weis, Ventura County superintendent of schools. "Overall, these are very optimistic scores and they give us reason to believe that we're moving in the right direction."

The Academic Performance Index was launched in January 2000 as the cornerstone of California's school accountability program. Using a composite of test results, the index assigns scores to schools on a scale of 200 to 1000, and sets improvement targets each year.

For the second year in a row, Mound Elementary School in Ventura recorded the highest index score in the county, with 933, a 35-point improvement over 2002. Mound Principal Rich Kirby said he was pleased with the results, chalking them up to good parent involvement, solid teaching and motivated students. But Kirby said there was plenty of work to be done.

"Even with a score of 933, we still have kids who are not proficient in math and not proficient in language arts," Kirby said. "Until every kid in Mound is proficient, we haven't met our goal."

Among the county's highest performers were eight schools that achieved the state's highest academic ranking of 10, and received the same mark when compared with other campuses across California that have students from similar backgrounds.

Those schools were Cypress Elementary, Sycamore Canyon School, Westlake Hills Elementary, Colina Middle School and Redwood Middle School, all in the Conejo Valley Unified School District, and Pierpont Elementary, Poinsettia Elementary and Foothill Technology High School in the Ventura Unified School District. Weis said Foothill's marks represented the first time a county high school had scored 10s in those categories.

Also for the first time, school districts as a whole received academic performance scores.

Four Ventura County districts met the state performance goal of 800, including the Pleasant Valley School District in Camarillo, the 35-student Santa Clara Elementary district near Santa Paula, the Oak Park Unified School District and the Conejo Valley Unified School District, the latter in Thousand Oaks.

Mike Vollmert, testing coordinator for the Thousand Oaks district, said with so many schools scoring so well -- 20 of the district's 27 schools met the academic performance goal -- it becomes harder each year to achieve dramatic improvements. But he said that didn't mean the district would stop trying.

"Obviously we're pleased, we have got a lot of very high-performing kids and high-performing teachers," Vollmert said. "We'll continue to focus on the standards and continue to do the right things for our kids."

For more information about rankings of individual schools and districts, check out the state Department of Education's website: http://api.cde.ca.gov/

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