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5 Manteca schools top 800

Schools credit students’ high API scores to team effort

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5 Manteca schools top 800

George McParland School students show off their Achievement Awards from Manteca Unified for their STAR Testing perfect scores.

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin


POSTED October 12, 2012 12:39 a.m.

Nile Garden School Principal Deborah Noceti barely missed dying her hair green. But four years ago, former principal Joseph Cook shaved his head.

It was all for a good cause – to encourage the students to achieve academic excellence. The former and current Panther principals challenged their students that if they reached a certain level in the API (Academic Performance Index) scores, they would fulfill the outrageous things that they promised to do.

The students delivered four years ago, the year after Cook retired. Nile Garden achieved an API score that went above the statewide API target of 800.

 “He promised he would return and shave his head, so he did,” and then challenged the students further to go for 830, Noceti recalled.

“And that’s the goal we’re shooting for,” she said.

The year Cook shaved his head before the student body was the first year the school scored above 800 in the API tests.

This time, Nile Garden hit 822. It was eight points shy of the 830 goal, so Noceti did not have to wear her hair to school in the Panthers’ green colors.

“I think they really want to see my hair green,” Noceti said on a light note about the excellent API performance her 430-strong student body delivered.

Nile Garden is one of five schools in Manteca Unified this year which posted scores above the statewide API target of 800. Two of the five posted the same scores. The other schools that made it to the school district’s magic five are New Haven which was the highest (854), Brock Elliott (847), Veritas (847), and George McParland (817).

In a more serious note, Noceti said her students’ impressive accomplishment was the result of a combination of factors – “staff, community, and student support.”

That and “just working away, continuing to work hard; that’s the secret, really,” she said.

Commenting on Manteca Unified’s 2012 API performance, Superintendent Jason Messer said in the statement e-mailed to the Bulletin, “We are very pleased that when looking at trends over the years, schools throughout Manteca Unified are clearly making consistent positive strides toward all students achieving proficiency. That is reflected this year in District API growth as well as significant gains for many schools.

“We credit this continuing growth to our ongoing focus on data, consistent implementation of standards-based curriculum, and the high quality instructional practices of our teachers and administrators. Our dedicated, hard-working teachers, staff, and students are greatly appreciated.”

 The principals of this year’s high-performing schools attributed their students’ high academic excellence in the API tests to the same factors, and more.

“We have an excellent teaching staff here, a very dedicated staff who take a look at individual students and their needs,” said Tracy Crawford who has been principal of the Veritas campus south of the 120 Bypass since it opened in May 2006.

On top of that, she said, are the parents in the Veritas school community who are “very supportive and encouraging” and who religiously help their children with their homework at night.

“It’s a team effort between parents, students, and teachers. We’re very pleased with the success of the students. These are my 500 kids in addition to my two at home,” Crawford said.

She was also proud to note that her school was the first campus in Manteca Unified to score over 800 in the API which continued every year after that – 816, 832, 838, and now 847. The exception was the year after the first 800 showing when they “took a little dip below 800.”

Brock Elliott principal Debbie Ruger, who also opened the school in 1989, said her students’ API performance which tied with that of Veritas School at 847, attributed that success also to staff and parents.

“The one most outstanding thing is there’s an incredibly experienced staff here who are always willing to go beyond the call of duty to meet all the individual need of the students which includes interventions,” she said, adding a lot of time has gone into studying each individual student’s improvement plans.

Additionally, she said, “we have a wonderful community that work in great partnership with us,” which also explains why Brock Elliott has hit the 800+ API scores for several years.

Ruger also credited the efforts of program coordinator Julie Thomas who, under the principal’s direction, helps in the intervention program, identifying students with needs and communicating with those students.

“She has done a superb job doing that,” Ruger said.

George McParland School has had API scores above 800 four years in a row including this year. “I think our secret is, we have excellent staff (members) who really try to take our mission statement and put it into action,” said Dale Borgeson who has been principal of this school on Northgate Drive for the last 13 years.

A key component in the school’s mission is to “get the students to achieve, keep parents informed of how students are doing” and providing interventions during the day and before or after school “for students who need a little extra support,” Borgeson explained.

“Good teaching strategies” in the classroom plus “a very supportive parent family community” also help the school fulfill its mission, he said.

With a total student body of 1,050 – which includes McParland Annex a block away from the main campus – the school also has the largest student population in the Manteca area of the district, topped only by the two elementary campuses in Weston Ranch – Great Valley and Komure elementary schools. Weston Ranch is part of the City of Stockton.

“California’s accountability system measures the performance and progress of a school or district on the results of statewide tests at Grades 2-12,” further stated the API summary statement from the district office.

“A school’s API index is a composite number, ranging from a low of 200 to a high of 1000, which represents the weighted result of student performance on these tests.”

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