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POSTED October 11, 2012 8:42 p.m.

Over half of schools hit academic score


LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than half of California's schools met the statewide academic achievement goal in 2012, the highest number ever, the education department announced Thursday.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said 53 percent of schools met or surpassed the Academic Performance Index target score of 800 this year, a 4 percentage point increase from last year.

The score, which is considered the single key achievement indicator for the state's public schools, has been steadily rising over the past decade. A decade ago, only 20 percent of schools met the target score.

"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," Torlakson said.

The performance index is calculated using a composite of results from different state standardized tests. Scoring ranges from 200 to 1,000.

Gains were seen across all educational levels.

Middle schools saw the biggest jump, increasing scores by 14 points to 792, while high schools advanced by 11 points to 752. Elementary schools remained ahead, growing by seven points to 815.

Experts noted that although the gains are laudable as education has suffered huge funding cuts in recent years, the steady rise in results also indicates that teachers are getting better at teaching to test content and pupils are getting better at test-taking.

"It doesn't necessarily mean they're learning more," said John Rogers, associate professor of education at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Students also boosted their individual academic performance index scores in 2012, increasing them an average 10 points to 788.

Black students saw the biggest gain — 14 points to 710. Latino students added 11 points to 740.

Asian students increased their scores by seven points to 905, while white students added eight points to hit 853.

The long standing "achievement gap" is a result of the difference in the quality of education at schools attended by predominantly black and Latino students as compared to those attended by white and Asian populations, Rogers noted.

"The achievement gap persists in large part because opportunity gaps exist," he said.

The state's largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, said its districtwide score increased by 16 points to 745, with one school, Burbank Middle School, recording a 100-point gain.

Jordan High School in Watts, recently taken over by the nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, was the district high school with the biggest increase of 93 points.

Superintendent John Deasy said the gain is notable given the layoffs of 10,000 employees, a shortened school year and larger class sizes due to state funding cuts over the last five years.


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