Natomas Schools Show Academic Gains


THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

At a press conference held Thursday in Natomas, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson announced that for the first time more than half California’s public schools met or surpassed academic achievement targets on the 2012 Academic Performance Index.

In the Natomas Unified School District, Jefferson and Natomas Park led the pack with the most growth districtwide. Both elementary schools also met all schoolwide and student subgroup growth goals, according to the state 2011-12 Accountability Progress Report unveiled by Torlakson.

Natomas Park Elementary is Natomas Unified’s most recent school to pass the state target with an 812 API. News of the score, announced to students during Torlakson’s press conference, was cheered.

“A 21-point growth is nothing to sneeze at – that’s significant,” said Principal Kendra Shelton, who credits the school’s WIN academic intervention program and GET 805 campaign in the weeks prior to standardized testing. “We hope for this to be the beginning of continued progress for our students.”

The Academic Performance Index, or API, is a numeric score ranging from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000. School and student group targets for each school are based on the previous year’s score; 800 API is the statewide target. All subgroups – ethnic groups, English learners, students with disabilities, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged – must meet growth targets for a school to meet its overall API growth goals.

As a whole, the Natomas Unified School District posted a 10-point gain over 2011.

Seven schools located within the district boundaries – Jefferson, Natomas Park, Natomas Charter, Two Rivers, Westlake Charter and Witter Ranch, Inderkum High and Natomas Charter – posted double-digit API gains.

Only four of those school met all student score targets – about half the number of schools which met all student targets last year.

“We’re headed in the right direction,” said Juanita Reynolds, principal at Jefferson, the district’s lowest-scoring campus. “It takes a team, nobody can do it alone. That’s the reality of it, you have to have collaboration.” 

Inderkum High’s score went up by 11 points marking the school’s first-ever back-to-back positive API gains. Principal George Tapanes gave credit to an after school intervention program, a pre-algebra boot camp for incoming freshman and teachers.

“I really believe an academic culture is starting to take shape at Inderkum,” Tapanes said. “It’s a long process, but it’s occurring and it’s gratifying to see as the principal.”

Two schools – Natomas Pacific Pathways High and Natomas Pacific Pathways Middle schools – both grew overall scores by one to four points, but fell just short of meeting subgroup targets.

“We hit 800, so I’m thrilled,” NP3 High Principal Tom Rutten said. “The nice thing for us is that we’ve gone up every year as we continue to grow and add students.”

NP3 Middle School Principal David Hunt said he was pleased the school’s score moved up a point, but added he was hoping for more.

“We’ll work harder this year to make it happen,” Hunt said. “It’s about using the data to inform instruction to benefit student achievement.” 

Scores at five schools – American Lakes, H. Allen Hight, Heron, Natomas Middle and Natomas High – saw a drop. The API score for American Lakes fell by 27 points, followed by H. Allen Hight, which went down 13 points.

Bannon Creek Elementary, which did not not have a valid API for 2011 due to an irregularity in testing procedures, scored a 748 API and brand-new Westlake Charter Middle School came out of the gate with a first-year 849 API score.

Westlake Charter Principal Kate Burwinkel said it was exciting to see the elementary school’s academic success continue through to the new middle school program.

“I’m just so proud of the students in general,” said Burwinkel. “They are such hard workers … and the ones to be congratulated.”

Click here to see the Natomas Unified School District’s 2011-12 accountability progress reporting.

 Photos by Marc Laver/The Natomas Buzz


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