The West Contra Costa school district saw test scores rise last school year but is still shy of the state goal, according to a report released Tuesday by the California Department of Education.

"We've continuously had slow and steady growth districtwide," said Nia Rashidchi, assistant superintendent of education services. "Although our teachers are working hard daily to support the growth of our students, we also know we have a lot of work to do."

The district's Academic Performance Index reached 690 in 2008-09, up 6 points from the year before. The API is a single score between 200 and 1,000 for each school and school district based on the results of statewide testing; the statewide target is 800.

West Contra Costa saw the sharpest drop among students with disabilities, 9 points, and Pacific islander students, 6 points. But English-learners saw their scores jump 13 points, while Filipino students' score climbed by 11. Asian, Latino, socioeconomically disadvantaged students and African-American students all rose slightly, while white students' scores held steady.

Filipino students scored best as a group at 802, followed by Asian students at 788 and white students at 780. Students with disabilities scored the worst, 551, followed by African-American students at 613. Socioeconomically disadvantaged students, English-learners and Latino students scored about the same, near the 660 mark. Pacific islander students scored 696.

"We need to make sure we're meeting the needs of all of our kids," Rashidchi said. "We continue the things we know are working, and letting go of things that aren't shown to be effective practices. Part of that is making sure that how we teach the standards is in a culturally responsive way — different people learn in different ways."

Richmond's De Anza High School, at 581, and Kennedy High School, at 577, posted the lowest scores of any district schools. Kensington Elementary and El Cerrito's Madera Elementary led the way at 933 and 929. Among middle schools, Hercules Middle scored highest, 738, while Dejean Middle in Richmond scored lowest, 606.

Stege Elementary and Richmond High School saw the biggest jumps from last year's numbers, increasing 66 and 61 points. El Sobrante and King elementaries saw the biggest drops, 44 and 43 points.

Statewide, test scores rose this year, with 42 percent of California schools now achieving an API score of 800 or more.

But the bar established under the 2001 federal No Child Left Behind Act — which requires all students be proficient in reading and math as defined by each state by 2014 — rose as well. Just half of California's public schools met the new targets, according to the State Department of Education.

The federal Program Improvement list — showing which schools failed to meet No Child Left Behind goals for at least two years in a row — also was released Tuesday. The watch list includes 16 West Contra Costa schools, including two new additions: Chavez and Wilson elementaries in Richmond. This marks Wilson's first appearance on the Program Improvement list, while Chavez returns after it came off three years ago. The district as a whole is still on the list.

"Students are definitely showing growth but not meeting the goals," Rashidchi said. "We have to figure out a way to continue to increase our growth proficiency at a faster rate."

test scores
For complete scores and information about the API and Program Improvement list, visit www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ar/index.asp.