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API: Joshua Cowell scores big
Five schools exceed state target of 800
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Confidence-building works.

Every Friday morning during assembly at Joshua Cowell Elementary School, Principal Bonnie Bennett asks the students, “What do Cougars do?” The resounding response from the assembled students is always the same: “We do our best!”

Bennett attributes this positive-attitude development as one of the reasons for the Cougars’ strong improvement showing in the 2013 API (Academic Performance Index) report just released on thursday.

Joshua Cowell School experienced the strongest growth among all the schools in the Manteca Unified School District at 35 API points, according to the report that came from Superintendent Jason Messer’s office Thursday.

Other significant gains were posted by French Camp and McParland elementary schools which were tied at 9 API points each, Lathrop Elementary School with 4 API points, and Great Valley School in Weston Ranch with 2 API points.

The 2013 API results likewise indicated that French Camp and Joshua Cowell schools both met the API growth target of 5 points or more.

At the same time that confidence among Joshua Cowell students is building, their attitudes are also changing, said Bennett, commenting about the good news which she announced to the school Thursday afternoon.

“Students are starting to believe that doing their best makes a difference,” she confidently stated.

“I feel we’ve done exceptionally well this past year,” commented George McParland Elementary School Principal Dale Borgeson about his school’s 9 API growth in the 2013 scores compared to the 2012 figures.

Such good news is the result of hard work and dedication by school teachers, he noted.

“They continue to work extremely hard. They targeted students who needed extra support through before- and after-school interventions” in the form of tutorials and homework assistance, Borgeson said.

“And then we have a program coordinator – Emily Baker – who helps gather the data and identify students who need that extra assistance. We’ve always tried to provide numerous interventions for students,” added Borgeson.

Commenting on the district’s 2013 accountability results summary in a prepared statement released to the media, Jason Messer stated: “When reviewing multi-year trends, it’s clear that schools throughout Manteca Unified have made huge strides in growth. The small dips or flat growth in 2013 accountability results in no way diminish the significant overall gains in proficiency our students have posted over the history of the current assessment program instituted in 1999.”

He added, “Our district and the state-wide school system have entered a time of far-reaching transition. This year, our focus is shifting toward the Common Core State Standards and the new Smarter Balanced Assessment program. I’m confident that our skilled and dedicated teachers and staff will continue to promote student achievement through all of the challenges and uncertainty of change ahead. We greatly appreciate our hard-working teachers and the extraordinary efforts of our students.”

For Bennett, Joshua Cowell’s spectacular increase in this year’s 2013 API growth points is the direct result of four things, with the character building as one of them. The other three, she pointed out, are:

• teachers who “worked very hard to implement their new training and use the most effective tools for reaching all students. They shared their best ideas, learned from each other, and learned from some experts who specialize n active learning strategies which keep the students engaged in the curriculum.”

• students’ active participation in their learning last year, which “made a big difference in their efforts on the STAR test.”

• the outstanding contribution of Cowell School’s support staff. “They have laid out an outstanding foundation for our teachers and students – from the custodians, to the office personnel, the yard-duty supervisors, to the psychologist, to the volunteers who work in the classrooms, to the school leadership teams. It is a total team effort which is generously provided by all.”

Other 2013 API

growth highlights

Other highlights pertaining to the 2013 API assessment results for MUSD schools:

• Five schools received API scores above 800, the statewide API target (George McParland – 826, Veritas – 826, Brock Elliott – 823, New Haven – 818, and Nile Garden – 812.)

• All Manteca Unified elementary schools received API scores of 719 or above. Six of the district’s 20 elementary schools experienced API gains or stayed even compared with the previous year.

• All five comprehensive high schools (Manteca, East Union, Sierra, Lathrop High, and Weston Ranch High) received API scores of 724 or above. Sierra High School earned the highest high school score of 761.

• Manteca High experienced strong growth at 19 API points. Other high schools posting API gains are East Union and Weston Ranch growing 7  API points each. Lathrop High’s API grew by 1 point.

• Brock Elliott, Joshua Cowell, and McParland schools met or exceeded all API growth targets.

• Ten district schools met or exceeded their API school-wide growth targets.

• MUSD achieved an overall Growth API score of 755, a three-point decrease over the previous year.

• The district’s overall graduation rate continues to far exceed the state graduation average with East Union and Lathrop High leading at more than 95 percent.

California’s accountability system measures the performance and progress of a school or district on the results of statewide tests at grades 2 to 12. A school’s API is a composite number, ranging from a low of 200 to a high of 1000, which represents the weighted results of student performance on these tests, according to the school district report.

Contact Rose Albano Risso at or at (209) 249-3536.