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New school ratings show local districts surpassing state standards

New school ratings show local districts surpassing state standards
Newport Harbor High School graduates celebrate by tossing their caps at their commencement ceremony in June. The Newport-Mesa Unified School District posted a graduation rate of nearly 91% in California Schools Dashboard rankings for the 2017-18 school year. (File Photo)

Scores are in for the second year of the California Schools Dashboard — the state’s new system for ranking schools — and they say local districts are mostly performing above state standards.

The Dashboard is color-coded to show school performance levels, from red (lowest), to orange, yellow, green and blue (highest). Metrics include test scores in English and math, graduation and suspension rates, chronic absenteeism and students’ readiness for college and careers.

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Looking at scores for the 2017-18 school year across six coastal Orange County districts, the most prominent color is green, compared with yellow and orange in the state overall.

The largest local school district, Newport-Mesa Unified — which serves more than 21,000 students — earned a green score in every core area except suspension rates, which was yellow. About 2.6% of the district’s students were suspended at least once in the school year, and 8.5% were recorded as chronically absent, according to the Dashboard.

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The district maintained a graduation rate of nearly 91% and saw a 6% increase in students considered prepared for college and careers, bringing that total to nearly 60%. Its math scores were slightly below state standards, while English scores were slightly above.

“The upward trend of our scores can be directly attributed to the exemplary efforts of our dedicated professionals — teachers, support staff and administrators,” Supt. Fred Navarro said Thursday. “Each comes to work every day with the express intent of getting every student to achieve and exceed grade-level skills and knowledge.”

Scores for the Huntington Beach Union High School District, which serves about 16,000 students, also were green in all areas except one, with math hitting yellow, a decline from the previous year. English scores, on the other hand, were well above the state standard, and nearly 93% of students graduated. The district’s chronic-absenteeism score was not reported.

The smallest of the three local K-12 districts, the 3,000-student Laguna Beach Unified, scored the highest, getting blue marks for math and English. Both scores increased from the previous year.

“We are excited that our students and staff continue to achieve excellent results in these Dashboard measures,” said Chad Mabery, Laguna Beach Unified’s director of assessment and accountability. “Our staff monitors progress on these important district performance, engagement and climate indicators throughout the year.”

Mabery said chronic absenteeism was an area of focus for district schools last year, which the score reflects. About 7.2% of students were chronically absent, a 3.6% decline.

“We know that students are more likely to succeed when they attend school consistently, so we were pleased there was a significant decline in the percentage of students who were [chronically absent],” Mabery said. “The Dashboard has provided valuable outcome data for student groups that support areas of strength and growth for us.”

About 70% of Laguna Beach Unified students ranked as prepared for college and careers, and about 96% graduated.

Graduation rates and college readiness scores are not applicable to the Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach City and Ocean View school districts, which have only elementary and middle schools.

The Fountain Valley School District received blue marks in English and math.

“We are thrilled with our overall performance in statewide accountability measures,” said Steve McLaughlin, the district’s assistant superintendent of educational services. “FVSD has always been a high-achieving district, and these results continue to validate the work of our teachers, support staff and site administrators, as well as the vision set by our board of trustees.”

About 1% of FVSD students were suspended, and 3.7% were marked chronically absent.

McLaughlin said an area of continued focus, “similar to most districts,” is students with disabilities.

“While we are encouraged by their overall growth in [state assessments] and the fact that we exceed county and statewide averages, we are working closely with our teachers to enhance our reading support at our elementary and middle schools,” McLaughlin said.

Both the Ocean View and Huntington Beach City districts outperformed state standards in English and math, with Huntington Beach City earning a blue score in English.

Jennifer Shepard, Huntington Beach City’s assistant superintendent of educational services, said the district’s academic scores were among the highest in Orange County.

“HBCSD continues to focus on high-quality instruction in these key academic areas as well as in science and history/social science for all students,” Shepard said. “Excellence in academics also means an emphasis on the skills of collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking through experiences in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] and integrated technology.”

Nearly 6% of students were rated chronically absent in both Ocean View and Huntington Beach City, while nearly 2% were suspended.

California Schools Dashboard reports for any school or district can be viewed at caschooldashboard.org.

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