School officials are excited about Newark students’ academic achievement but said they will work on improving students’ achievement in English-Language Arts this school year.
The growth is indicated in a report released by the state Department of Education’s known as the annual Accountability Progress Reports.
The reports are used by educators to measure how well schools and districts are performing academically by analyzing standardized test results based on state and federal guidelines.
Newark students’ growth this year in academic achievement, which was the second highest within the Tri-Cities, prevents Newark Unified from falling into a fourth year of Program Improvement, a label that marks schools and districts as educational institutions failing to meet their goals when it comes to standardized tests.
The annual reports include measurements from the state’s Academic Performance Index, or API, and the federal Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, and Program Improvement designations.
Newark Unified’s Chief Academic Officer Cecelia English said district officials are “extremely happy with the [students'] growth,” particularly in math scores.
This was evident in the district’s AYP scores. The federal measurement requires 78 percent of the students tested to score at or above grade level in English-Language Arts and Math.
While the district did not meet its AYP in either category, they only fell short from reaching the math proficiency goal by one demographic group.
“All of our significant demographic groups met the requirements except for our African American population. We still have much more that we want to accomplish but we are grateful that the academic scores reflect all of the hard work by our staff and students,” English said.
English noted that the district’s focus in the most recent years was to increase the number of students' math proficiency and for students to be proficient in algebra before reaching high school.
She said it is more significant to Newark students now, after the board’s decision to align district’s high school graduation requirements with college admissions guidelines, known as A-G requirements.
“The board approved A-G requirements to go into effect with this year’s seventh grade class. We knew that we had to significantly improve our math performance, especially in algebra,” English said.
Since 2010, the district has doubled the number of students who enroll in algebra at the junior high level, according to English.
“I am very proud to say that we had 89 students proficient in algebra at NJHS in 2010 and that we had 149 students proficient in algebra in 2012,” English said. “Also, this past year, despite the fact that we doubled the number of 7th grade students taking algebra in the 7th grade, 100 percent of the students scored proficient and higher.”
As a district, Newark Unified is showing significant growth in state measurements known as API.
API, provides a "growth model" based on a scale of 200 to 1,000 points, with a score of 800 considered exemplary.
Newark Unified's API score this year was 780, which is nine points higher than its API growth target of 771.
The highest growth within the district belonged to Musick Elementary School, which exceeded the state target of 800 with an 828 API ranking.
“Our overarching goal was to significantly increase the academic performance of all of our students, so that they are prepared to excel in college or the workplace,” English said.
She added, however, that there is still more growth to achieve.
Three of the district’s 12 schools dropped in API measures, and one school, Milani Elementary School, did not meet its API growth target. See the API scores of each Newark school in the document above.
Additionally, students’ performance with English-Language Arts has fallen short. Six demographic groups within the district fell short of the AYP goal for English-Language Arts. See more details about AYP measurements in the document above.
“Because our English Language Arts performance has not grown as well as we would like for it to, this year, we added a target focusing on English Language Arts,” English said. “We still have much more that we want to accomplish, but we are grateful that the academic scores reflect all of the hard work by our staff and students.”
The annual reports are calculated using results of the STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) program and the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE).
For more information about the district, your school or any other school or district in California visit the state Department of Education website.
Numbers don't tell the whole story but what do these test results – and your other experiences – tell you about Newark schools? Share your thoughts in our comments section below.