Students at two schools in the Murrieta Valley Unified School District scored among the highest in Riverside County, according to results released Thursday by the California Department of Education.
Dorothy McElhinney was ranked fifth in the county among middle schools based on its 2012 Academic Performance Index score of 889, an increase of 16 points from 2011. Murrieta Valley High School was the fourth-highest scoring comprehensive high school in the county with an API of 848—an increase of 15 points from last year.
API reflects growth in student achievement from one year to the next and is determined by results on the California Standards Tests in English, math, history/social science and science, and the California High School Exit Exam.
The scores range from 200 to 1,000, with a performance target of 800.
As a district, Murrieta Valley Unified improved by 11 points, from 843 in 2011 to 854 in 2012.
“The growth in this year’s API scores validate all the hard work being done on behalf of students,” said Karen Parris, spokesperson for Murrieta Valley Unified. “It is the result of our teachers, support staff and administrators working hard to evaluate and improve their instruction and provide targeted interventions to help students succeed.”
According to the state, 53 percent of California schools met or exceeded the 800-point bar in 2011-12, up four percentage points from the previous year.
"In the real terms of the state's Academic Performance Index, Riverside County students continued to score gains in 2012," county Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Young said. "Our students registered a six-point year-over- year API improvement, third best of any California county with 10,000 or more graduates."
Young said the federal component of the API—the Adequate Yearly Progress standard—reveals signs of slow or no progress in some schools. He also worried that the state's new School Quality Snapshot, unveiled today, might misrepresent how well some students are doing.
"The snapshot perpetuates the notion that students who score 'proficient and above' in English, math and science are meeting an important benchmark," the superintendent said. "Yet there's mounting evidence that a 'proficient' rating doesn't guarantee a high school graduate is prepared to succeed at college level work. We need standards with real-world meaning."
The county's highest-scoring elementary schools on the 2011-12 API were:
—Alamos Elementary, in the Temecula Valley Unified School District, at 951;
—George Washington Carver Elementary in the Desert Sands Unified School District, at 927;
—Ysabel Barnett Elementary in Temecula Valley, at 927;
—Kennedy Elementary in RUSD, at 926; and
—Crowne Hill Elementary in Temecula Valley, at 926.
Statewide, 59 percent of elementary schools, 49 percent of middle schools and 30 percent of high schools met the state API benchmark.
Elementary school scores statewide increased by 7 points to 815, while middle schools jumped 14 points to 792 and high schools increased 11 points to 752.
The county's highest-scoring middle schools on the 2011-12 API were:
—Western Center Academy in Hemet Unified, at 955;
—Amelia Earhart Middle, in Riverside Unified, a 906;
—San Jacinto Leadership Academy in San Jacinto Unified at 897;
—Vail Ranch Middle in Temecula Valley Unified, at 891; and
—Dorothy McElhinney Middle, in Murrieta Valley Unified, at 889.
The county's highest-scoring comprehensive high schools on the 2011-12 API were:
—John F. Kennedy High in Corona-Norco Unified, at 866;
—California Military Institute, in Perris Union, at 856;
—Great Oak High in Temecula Valley Unified, at 849;
—Murrieta Valley High in Murrieta Valley Unified, at 848; and
—Nuview Bridge Early College High in Nuview Union, at 847.
"We've set a high bar for schools and they have more than met the challenge, despite the enormous obstacles that years of budget cuts have put in their way," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. "The incredible efforts of teachers, administrators, school employees, parents and students should serve as an inspiration to us all. While there's still more work to do, California's schools have earned a vote of confidence."
Scores for all schools in Murrieta Valley Unified for 2012—and the difference from last year's—were as follows:
—Alta Murrieta Elementary: 912, a 19-point increase from 893;
—Antelope Hills Elementary: 897, a 3-point increase from 894;
—Avaxat Elementary: 856, an 11-point increase from 845;
—Cole Canyon Elementary: 913, a 4-point decrease from 917;
—Buchanan Elementary: 865, in line with 865;
—E. Hale Curran Elementary: 845, a 7-point increase from 838;
—Lisa J. Mails Elementary: 889, a 13-point increase from 876;
—Monte Vista Elementary: 843, a 10-point decrease from 853;
—Murrieta Elementary: 850, a 2-point increase from 848;
—Rail Ranch Elementary: 880, a 37-point increase from 843;
—Tovashal Elementary: 880, a 12-point increase from 868;
—Dorothy McElhinney Middle; 889, a 16-point increase from 873;
—Shivela Middle: 838, a 17-point increase from 821;
—Thompson Middle: 874, a 17-point increase from 857;
—Warm Springs Middle: 844, an 8-point increase from 836;
—Murrieta Mesa High: 818, a 7-point increase from 811;
—Murrieta Valley High: 848, a 15-point increase from 833;
—Vista Murrieta High: 837, a 14-point increase from 823.
—Tenaja Academy: 688, a 60-point decrease from 748; and
—Creekside High: 564, a 48-point decrease from 612.
Murrieta schools that did not reach their growth targets in one or more subgroups, according to federal benchmarks, were Buchanan Elementary, Monte Vista Elementary, Murrieta Elementary and Vista Murrieta High.
Additionally, though the district saw a 37-percent increase in overall scores, four schools have been placed in Program Improvement status under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These include Avaxat, Buchanan, E. Hale Curran and Murrieta elementary schools. Rail Ranch Elementary entered its second year of Program Improvement status.
Among school districts and statewide, there continues to be a movement to get out from beneath the federal thumb of NCLB.
"California's request for a waiver from the requirements of NCLB is still pending," Torlakson said. "While we're waiting for the flexibility we need, we're not going to allow a flawed system to distract us from the work we're doing to help schools improve."
Along with the annual API scores, Torlakson also unveiled the California Department of Education's new School Quality Snapshot, a free, online accountability tool that puts a wide variety of academic results and other information about a school's performance at the fingertips of parents and the public, according to a CDE news releae.
These reports—visual representations of data schools already reported to CDE—represent a first step in how the Department and the State Board of Education plan to use data to better inform the public about the progress of California schools as they reshape the School Accountability Report Card and revise the Academic Performance Index as required by Senate Bill 1458 (Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento), CDE stated in the news release.
—City News Service contributed to this report.