Pumped up scores | TheUnion.com

Pumped up scores

High school students in western Nevada County showed major improvement on a leading statewide academic achievement test, the district superintendent said Thursday.

Students improved 24 points in the Nevada Joint Union High School District to reach a score of 789 in the state’s Academic Performance Index, nearing the state goal of 800 points on the API scale.

“Teachers worked very closely with the students in their classrooms to make sure they were as well prepared for the exam this year as they could be,” said Ralf Swenson, district superintendent of the Nevada Joint Union High School District, calling the results “very encouraging.”

The state’s Academic Performance Index uses a complex formula to measure student achievement in English, social science, mathematics and physical science, basing much of the score on the standardized STAR tests that students took in the spring.

Both of the area’s main high schools scored above 800 points: Nevada Union climbed 38 points from last year’s score of 767. Bear River, last year’s API champion at 812 points, declined seven points. But both schools finished at 805.

The greatest gains in the district were among students who were least likely to perform well: Those at Silver Springs Continuation High School and disadvantaged students at Nevada Union, Swenson said.

He praised teachers at Nevada Union for reaching out to students who were falling behind, calling their progress “just fantastic.”

“It’s going to make so many people at NU happy,” Swenson said. For “the teachers who have put so much effort into this, to see this growth is great news for them and the kids who performed on the exams.”

Teachers at NU planned to celebrate breaking the 800 mark this afternoon with free popsicles for students after classes. A celebration is planned for later in the month to recognize faculty and students for their improvement.

Area teens who are most at risk of doing poorly or dropping out also showed major improvement.

Teachers at Silver Springs “are also trying to align their curriculum and help those kids,” Swenson said. “To see them step up and show that kind of growth is really a tribute to those folks at Park Avenue.”

Despite the slight decline at Bear River, Swenson called their results “a very solid score.” He added, “They’ve shown very positive growth over the past several years.”

Ghidotti Early College High School, already home to high achievers intensely focused on academics, remains one of the top-scoring high schools in the state with an eye-popping 913 points.

The students at Sierra Mountain Independent Study improved their score to 717 points.

The API scores for district high schools and their change compared to the 2007 scores are:

– Nevada Union, 805 – up 38 points from 767

– Bear River, 805 – down 7 points from 812

– Ghidotti Early College, 913 – up 36 points from 877

– Silver Springs Continuation, 509 – up 49 points from 460

– Sierra Mountain Independent Study, 717 – up 42 points from 675

– Districtwide, 789 – up 24 points from 765

Teachers in the district took a proactive stand to improve test scores, Swenson said.

“They looked at individual students, class by class, identified students who performed below expectations, and developed strategies to help those students perform better,” he said.

Swenson praised Nevada Union teacher Chris Buti with spearheading an effort to use software to analyze the state testing results and pinpoint subjects and students that required extra attention.

At Nevada Union, the greatest improvement was among the students who were least likely to do well on the test. The group of students the API calls socioeconomically disadvantaged pushed their scores ahead 72 points, Swenson said.

Statistics often show a correlation between poverty and poor school performance, he added.

“NU teachers have completely reversed that statistical trend and reached out to our socioeconomically disadvantaged students,” he said. “They’ve bucked the statistical model.”

Schools with scores less than 800 points must show growth each year, and the state sets the growth requirement, Swenson said.

The API test scores are posted on the California Department of Education’s Web site, http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap.

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