After yet another year of budget headaches, school officials got some good, if expected, news this week.

Lamorinda schools continue to be some of the highest-performing in the state, according to the latest Academic Performance Index report from the state Department of Education.

API scores are based on STAR test and California High School Exit Exam results and range from 200 to 1,000. The statewide API score for 2009-10 was 767.

All four Lamorinda school districts again far exceeded the state target of 800, and district officials said they are pleased with the results while at the same time adding there is always room for improvement.

"It's nice to see success validated, but it requires hard work and we're going to keep working," said John Stockton, superintendent of the Acalanes Union High School District.

That work is especially important for higher-performing districts, he added, because "You can't expect to have massive growth (in API scores) every year, you need to be happy with just steady growth."

Officials look at the subject-specific data the state provides to see if improvements can be made in a specific subject area, like writing or math, said Lisa Bissell, director of curriculum and instruction in the Orinda Union School District.

That district's API score held steady at 954, making it the highest-scoring in Contra Costa County.


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Lamorinda's scores held steady despite another year of budget cuts due to plummeting state funding. Parcel taxes and donations from parents clubs helped stave off the drastic cuts some other districts have had to implement.

"The values are there to send children to school ready and equipped to learn, and so we're very fortunate for that," Bissell said.

The API results give school officials a snapshot in time, and teachers and administrators need to measure growth in a variety of ways, said Moraga School District Superintendent Bruce Burns.

The district monitors the curriculum throughout the year, he said, providing a real-time assessment of student achievement and allowing them to make adjustments more quickly.

"In many respects (looking at API scores is) a little like conducting an autopsy," said Lafayette School District Superintendent Fred Brill. "If you're a teacher and if you look at how your kids have done, they've already moved onto the next teacher."

In the face of budget cuts, the community has been generous and teachers have been willing to sacrifice to keep student achievement high, he said, but the fiscal crisis will eventually impact the classroom if funding does not increase.

"There is a point of diminishing returns," Brill said. "You can only squeeze folks for so long so hard and say we want you to improve. There is a point at which we continue to see the lack of sufficient funding that we're going to pay a price."

Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Read the Lamorinda Sun blog at www.ibabuzz.com/lamorindasun.

By the numbers
Academic Performance Index results for Lamorinda school districts:
District 2010 2009
Acalanes 899 897
Lafayette 922 917
Moraga 945 943
Orinda 954 954
Scores measured from 200-1,000. State target is 800. To view detailed API reports, visit www.cde.ca.gov/ta.