FAIRFIELD — Fairfield-Suisun schools bucked a county- and statewide trend last year, improving district scores in state-administered tests.
The Fairfield-Suisun School District was the only one in Solano County to see an increase in its Academic Performance Index score, one of a bushel of statistical reports released Thursday by the state.
“We’re very excited that the district as a whole moved forward,” said Superintendent Kris Corey. “Of course, we wish every school showed progress, but when you compare it as a whole, it’s not just silos of success. All of us improve together.”
Fairfield-Suisun’s districtwide API score – which combines state tests in English-language arts, math, history/social sciences and science – was 789, up three points from a year ago. While short of the state’s target of 800, it came in a year when Vacaville’s score was flat and both Travis and River-Delta – which includes Rio Vista – suffered slight drops.
It also moved Fairfield-Suisun ahead of Vacaville for the first time.
In addition to school and districtwide API scores, the state also released exit exam statistics and the federal Adequate Yearly Progress reports.
In the exit exam, which is required for graduation, central Solano County’s four school districts were close to the state average in the percentage of sophomores who passed – the most-used benchmark for the test.
Statewide, 84 percent of sophomores passed the math test and 83 percent passed the English-language test. In Fairfield-Suisun, 80 percent of sophomores passed the math exam and 80 percent passed the English-language arts exam. In Vacaville, those numbers were 86 percent and 89 percent; at Travis they were 92 percent and 96 percent; and in River-Delta, they were 88 and 82 percent.
The biggest news was the API scores – especially in the Fairfield-Suisun district, where 10 of the 17 elementary schools hit the desired 800-point level. The leading scorers were Neldy Mundy and Suisun Valley elementary schools, which posted scores of 950 and 902, respectively. They joined the fledgling Public Safety Academy as the only schools in the district at the 900-point level.
At the secondary level, Green Valley Middle School and Rodriguez High School reached the 800-point level – Rodriguez becoming the first high school in the district ever to reach that level.
“Rodriguez was over 800 and it’s hard for a high school to get 800,” Corey said. “Also, one of our Program Improvement schools (where low scores lead to increased state involvement in the school), Suisun Elementary, has great gains (27 points, to 799). That’s exciting to see that kind of growth.”
Fairfield-Suisun elementary schools did especially well in the API marks that compare schools with similar demographics. Six schools – Dan O. Root, David A. Weir, Laurel Creek, Nelda Mundy, Rolling Hills and Suisun Valley – scored a 10 on the 1-to-10 scale. In the rest of Solano County, only Vanden High School at Travis and Matthew Turner Elementary in Benicia received a 10.
“Our board made that a goal,” Corey said. “They wanted a minimum of five (schools with a 10). That shows extraordinary growth in five years – not only in similar schools, but in growth. Five years ago, we had eight schools at 1 or 2, now we have none. Five years ago, we had only five schools over 5, now we have 18.
“That speaks to systematic change,” Corey said. “We’ve remained very consistent in our focus. No matter what school you go to, you know there will be an effective teacher strategy.”
The state is moving to Common Core Standards, which will see the end of many of the current state tests. Corey said that part of the district- and statewide struggles in scores this year was due to a change in focus as teachers focus on the new standards.
While Fairfield-Suisun schools did well, the three other districts in central Solano County were flat or down slightly.
Vacaville’s districtwide API score remained 788, which could be seen as a positive.
Frazier said there is room for improvement.
“We’re not satisfied,” he said. “It just kind of points to that end that we still have work to do.”
Considering the financial circumstances most school districts have found themselves in lately, there is something positive.
“Given all the cutbacks over the last six years – our scores have continued to increase even with diminishing resources,” Frazier said. “It shows that our teachers have been working really hard.”
Travis School District saw a 17-point districtwide dip, although six of the seven schools in the district hit the API target of 800.
Sue Brothers, the district’s director of curriculum instruction and assessment, said that while scores did drop a little, “our students are still scoring quite high and our kids are doing quite well, scoring above the average.”
In Rio Vista, D.H. White Elementary, Riverview Middle School and Rio Vista High School all improved in the scores – with the elementary and middle schools scoring above 800. But the River Delta School District, which includes those schools, saw a slight drop in overall API scores.
Getting ready to start his second month on the job, Superintendent Don Beno said he’s visited several classrooms and sees a concerted effort to fill in achievement gaps.
“We really focus on these efforts,” he said. “We spend a lot of time going over the achievement data and seeing where the gaps are.”
The other numbers were the AYP standards, part of the No Child Left Behind program, which is ending.
Its standards, which a state press release called “unrealistic,” were disappointing across the state. The program requires that 90 percent of students at schools attain “proficiency” or the schools must enter program improvement status. Only 14 percent of schools statewide met AYP benchmarks this year, down from 26 percent a year ago.
Out of all the standard schools (non-continuation, non-independent study, non-charter) in the four central Solano districts, only Orchard Elementary in Vacaville and D.H. White Elementary in Rio Vista met the criteria in all areas.
Jay Speck, the county superintendent of schools, acknowledged that scores across Solano were down, but said the countywide trend of lower scores was understandable.
“While any decline is disappointing, these results are not surprising given the devastating funding cuts schools have endured over the past five years,” he said in a news release. “I am optimistic that the new resources given to schools this year, targeted toward our neediest learners, will help put our schools back on the positive trend line we have held in the past several years.”
Ian Thompson, Amy Maginnis-Honey and Mike Corpos contributed to this report. Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.