Academic test scores in Newport-Mesa Unified increased nine points to 830 of the 1,000-point scale in 2011, but nearly half of the district's elementary schools had declines, state data released Wednesday show.
Assistant Supt. of Secondary Education Charles Hinman said it's important to look at Academic Performance Index (API) scores from a long-term perspective and not be concerned about a one-year change.
"If you look at our API score districtwide, longitudinally, we have eight straight years of growth," he said. "So there's something going on right longitudinally, but every year you are going to have ups and downs to some degree.
"But as long as we have that continued growth at the end of the day, we're going to have excellence, and that's the indicator now."
The scores are based on the results of the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program and the California High School Exit Examination.
API scores, which range from 200 to 1,000, measure academic performance levels and growth for individual schools and for districts.
Schools are expected to achieve at least a 710 on the 2011 Growth API or gain one point from 2010 to 2011. The state has set 800 as every school's target.
Nearly 94% of Newport-Mesa schools scored above 710, and 70% achieved the 800 mark.
Andersen Elementary School scored 950 — the highest in the district. The Newport Beach school's score rose 16 points, from 934 in 2010. Principal Laura Vlasic said she is proud of the commitment her students, staff and parents have made to learning.
"We're dedicated as a school to a culture that is focused on learning, collaboration and results," she said.
The school is going to celebrate its achievement Sept. 9, Vlasic said.
Newport Coast, Mariners, Newport Heights, Harbor View and Lincoln elementary schools, all in Newport Beach, also had some of the highest scores in the district.
Two Costa Mesa schools — Early College High and Davis Magnet — also achieved notched high scores.
However, Back Bay High School had the highest growth rate in the district.
"I have to attribute it to the teachers' focus on state standards and the tests, especially the release questions, and the quality of the students we had last year," Principal Deborah Davis said.
The alternative high school's API score jumped almost 100 points, from 563 to 662. But the high school was still below all other Newport-Mesa schools.
Rea Elementary School in Costa Mesa struggled among the elementary schools at 685 — a 27-point decline, which was the greatest decline among elementary schools.
Other campuses in Costa Mesa — Whittier, Wilson, College Park, Pomona and Adams elementary schools, and Estancia High School — also ranked among the lowest performers.
Hinman said research points to socioeconomic status as the greatest indicator of achievement. It's also important to see where schools started off at and how far they've grown, he said.
"We don't really compare apples to apples," Hinman said. "All schools have a starting point. Our only contention is growth, year-to-year growth."