API scores rise at high school district

By Marsha Sutton

Senior Education Writer

Academic Performance Index numbers were released this week by the California Department of Education, and the San Dieguito Union High School District reported significant increases over last year at nearly every school.

Canyon Crest Academy, in Pacific Highlands Ranch, gained 18 points, to pass the 900 mark. CCA’s 910 API makes it the highest-scoring comprehensive public high school in the county and one of the highest in the state. CCA’s enrollment is about 1,875 students in grades 9-12.

Carmel Valley’s Torrey Pines High School, with about 2,700 students in grades 9-12, also made gains this year, scoring 880, nine points higher than last year.

Carmel Valley Middle School scored 971, up four points from last year, while Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach, the only school in the district to see a lower API this year, dropped four points, to 925. Both are grades 7-8 schools.

The district’s two middle schools in the north – Diegueno and Oak Crest – increased their API scores, Diegueno up 19 points to 908 and Oak Crest up 13 points to 902.

Scores also climbed for San Dieguito’s high schools in the north. San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas scored 854, up nine points over last year, and the API for La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad came in three points higher than last year, scoring 818.

Of the district’s eight comprehensive middle and high schools, five scored APIs over 900 – all four middle schools, plus Canyon Crest Academy.

Traditional comprehensive high schools exclude specialty schools that have eligibility criteria for admissions, which may include some charter schools, magnet schools and very small special applications schools.

“Canyon Crest is the first comprehensive high school in San Diego County to top 900,” said Rick Schmitt, SDUHSD’s associate superintendent of educational services. Last year, he said, only six traditional high schools in California topped 900. The district has not yet examined the 2011 scores for statewide comparisons.

Schmitt credited CCA principal Brian Kohn and founding principal David Jaffe – and the CCA staff – for the school’s success.

“Brian and David built that place, its energy and culture, and they get a ton of credit,” Schmitt said.

“I think one can argue that this is an historic accomplishment,” Kohn said in an email. He said, though, that he’s most proud that students are excited to come to school.

“It’s all about school culture,” Kohn said. “Jaffe set it up beautifully, the staff made it real, and the students achieve because they treat each other well. They like being here, and they are proud of their school.”

Less money, larger classes

Mike Grove, SDUHSD’s executive director of curriculum and assessment, said this year’s growth district-wide is the continuation of an upward trend over the past three to five years.

Identifying and zeroing in on under-performing students and under-achieving subgroups were key strategies, he said. “We’re trying to identify those individual students and making sure they’re getting additional support ... and then providing targeted and effective intervention,” he said.

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