Pair of 10s earn a win

Daily Pilot

Two Newport-Mesa Unified schools scored a pair of "10" rankings each based on the state's Academic Performance Index, and they were the only schools in the district to do so.

Mariners Elementary School in Newport Beach and Early College High School in Costa Mesa were notified last week of their outstanding state rankings and measurements on the index, or API. It is a yardstick used to measure how well students in California are learning subject matter in the state's standardized curriculum. The API is calculated according to how students at specific schools performed in state testing done last spring.

"I have absolutely fantastic teachers. I cannot even tell you how good my teachers are," said Pam Coughlin, principal of Mariners in Newport Beach. "I also have super parents and support. I probably have about 40 parents helping me right now in the classroom. We work really well together. We pitch in and help, and no matter what needs to get done, we get it done."

The school has 773 students. On the standardized tests, 88.8% of the student body scored well in math, ranking as either "advanced" or "proficient" in the subject matter, Coughlin said.

In language arts, Coughlin said, 84.4% of the student body was either advanced or proficient.

Early College High's students, where 185 students were counted in state testing, also scored well on the tests and received two rankings of 10 out of a range of 1 to 10.

According to Pam Slater, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Education, the 10s represent an extraordinary effort because, in order to achieve those rankings, a school not only has to rank in the top 10 percentile across the state, but it also has to rank in the same percentile in schools similar in size and socio-economic demographics.

Both did so, Slater said.

Most schools across the district scored well on API, she said, averaging scores on the index between 700 and 800 points, the threshold for success. The index tops out at 1,000 points.

Six other schools in the district ranked 10 statewide, but none were in Costa Mesa.

Those six are three Newport Beach schools — Eastbluff Elementary, Newport Coast Elementary and Andersen Elementary — and three schools in Corona Del Mar — Lincoln Elementary, Harbor View Elementary and Corona del Mar High.

Two other elementary schools in Costa Mesa received a statewide ranking of "9" — Kaiser and Victoria, while Rea Elementary School in Costa Mesa fared worst among all schools in the district, receiving a statewide ranking of 1.

"We wouldn't say they did badly," Slater said of Rea's ranking. "We like to refer to them as a 'struggling school,'" she said.

Rea, she added, has a student body that's 97% Latino, and 60% of the parents of the children have not graduated from high school.

In addition, 99% of the student body receives either a reduced or free lunch.

Anna Corral, Rea's principal, said plenty of changes are afoot within the 580-student school to make great academic strides by next year.

"We're taking a completely different approach by updating students and parents on the daily progress in the classroom," Corral said. "Every librarian, in fact, is tracking how many words the students read per week. Our schoolwide focus is on academic growth. We're really trying to focus on high academic standards."

State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell last week released the API results across California with much fanfare, saying that the information "gives the public additional knowledge about how their schools compare to other schools in their region and statewide."

According to O'Connell in a news release from the state Department of Education, a school's statewide rank is based on the school's Base API and is calculated separately for three types of schools: elementary, middle and high schools. Ranks are established by something called "deciles."

Each decile contains 10% of all schools of each type, according to the release.

It is important to note, O'Connell stated, that there will always be schools ranked 1 and schools ranked 10 because of the nature of the system.

Ten percent of schools will always be in each decile.

— Rachel Terrazas contributed to this report.

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