LAUSD ONE OF STATE'S WORST URBAN DISTRICTS SCHOOLS: PERFORMANCE INDEX SHOWS TEST SCORES ON THE RISE, YET 60 POINTS BELOW AVERAGE.
Despite making strong gains in the latest round of standardized tests, the Los Angeles Unified School District still sits near the bottom of California's urban school districts, according to state rankings released Thursday.
The springtime release of the state's base Academic Performance Index, or API, ranks schools based on their statewide test scores and how they perform compared to schools having similar demographics.
According to a district analysis of 10 large, urban districts in the state, only Oakland Unified School District ranked below LAUSD.
While test scores across the district are on the rise among students of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, the district's average score of 681 was still 60 points below the state average.
LAUSD was outranked by districts including Long Beach, Pasadena, Pomona and Santa Ana.
LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines argued that LAUSD's size makes it difficult to compare it to other districts in California.
"It's like comparing apples to oranges," he said. "We're just too big ... we have more students than some states," he said.
Instead, he argued, the district should compare its progress to its own results from previous years. He noted that LAUSD has made progress with Latino, black and lower-income students who have traditionally underperformed other students in statewide testing.
The announcement of rankings and testing goals also comes as local districts grapple with a financial crisis that threatens to balloon class sizes, reduce teachers and cut support staff and resources.
Statewide, school districts are facing a $1.4 billion cut by mid-June, when the traditional school year ends. Next year, the districts could face $3.3 billion in cuts.
"It doesn't take much to realize what that means for education," said state schools chief Jack O'Connell, in announcing the API results. "Class size will go up, there will be fewer nurses, librarians, counselors, fewer art classes, career tech. ... School leaders will be doing all they can just to keep the lights on and doors open."
Despite the financial pressure, several schools in LAUSD managed to land in the top rankings. In the San Fernando Valley, half of all elementary schools scored above the state average as did one-third of all middle schools and a quarter of all high schools.
Only seven LAUSD schools - or about 1 percent of the total - achieved the highest ranking of 10 for both the statewide and the similar schools rankings, which groups schools demographically.
Four of the seven schools were in the San Fernando Valley. They were Encino and Woodland Hills Elementary, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies and High Tech High school.
In the Valley, the same number of high schools and elementary schools - but fewer middle schools - remained in the top half of the rankings as in the past.
"We are just delighted," said Marsha Rybin principal of High Tech High, an independent charter school in Van Nuys.
The similar schools ranking was created to help paint a more accurate picture of achievement in schools with a higher percentage of traditionally underperforming students.
For example, test scores at Bert Corona Charter School in Pacoima rose by 48 points last year, but its API score of 647 ranks the school in the bottom 20 percent of schools in the state.
Next to schools with similar demographics, the school is in the top 20th percentile.
"Rankings are important to a certain degree, but it doesn't mean everyone is competing at the same level," said Ruben Duenas, Bert Corona's principal. "Schools should be ranked based on what they do with the population they serve."
Duenas said part of the success at his school has come from his mission to encourage every single student to perform at his or her best.
"I teach my kids that they are more than the neighborhood they're from. They are the effort and work that they put forward."
Duenas said his school will continue aiming for the top of both the state and similar schools charts, but he admitted that the district's bleak financial future concerns him.
Despite being a charter school, Duenas and other charter providers still receive their funding from the state and the district.
"We are cut so thin that this time around I am worried about cutting staff," he said.
"And any time you do that, you reduce student achievement."
LAUSD's Cortines said he was bothered by the messy budget situation facing the district, but the veteran administrator refused to lament the situation.
"I am not going to give up and neither are teachers and principals," he said. "We can't ... it's children we're talking about."
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||May 22, 2009|
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