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API results thrill CUSD leadership
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All schools within the Ceres Unified School District posted gains in the Academic Performance Index (API) scores released Thursday by the state of California.

"Every school made the playoffs and to say the least, I am awestruck and proud of the results," commented Supt. Walt Hanline.

Scores detail that Ceres students continue to make academic gains and rank high when compared to students from similar schools.

CUSD's average district school statewide ranking grew by 0.6 ranking, from 4.4 to 5.

"All the district schools are above average and really in the top third," said Hanline. "Our students are right in the middle of students statewide, regardless of the socio-economic status of our district," said Hanline.

However, the ranking of Ceres schools, as it relates to comparable schools - called the Average District Similar School Ranking - rose by 1.4 rankings, from 7.4 to 8.9 out of 10, with no school less then a 7. Specifically five schools ranked at a 10 out of 10 and 16 of the 17 CUSD schools ranked at a 7 or greater.

"These results are outstanding, and are a testimony to the great teaching and learning occurring in our schools," said Dr. Mary Jones, CUSD's assistant superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.

Overall in the statewide average, Ceres schools are at a 5.0 on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of academic performance. Hanline said that may not seem like much of an accomplishment until one factors in that Ceres is disadvantaged in socio-economic terms. He noted two factors about CUSD:

• Forty percent of all students are English learners;

• Sixty-four percent of all students qualify for free lunches, signaling a high poverty rate in Ceres. Typically students from impoverished families don't fare as well in school.

"We're in spite of that," said Hanline. "We're in the middle of the pack and our objective in the future is to continue to move forward into ultimately be leading the pack from a statewide point of view. We have broken the mindset in our parents and our teachers that just because you are poor doesn't mean you can't achieve. But poverty has issues that makes it more challenging. You cannot run from the reality that poverty and acquisition of language are challenges that Beverly Hills does not face."

Hanline credited great teaching and administrators as well as exceptional classified staff.

"As I think about why all of our schools are in the top third, I strongly believe this is a result of the synergy of teachers and leaders working together in sharing things that work for them in their classrooms and schools. Most importantly, it is about paying the price of hard work and dedication in achieving excellence."

The school with the most noteworthy API standing is that of rural Westport Elementary School which has some of CUSD's poorest students but ranked a 10 out of 10 in similar schools in California and an 8 out 10 in all elementary schools across the state.

"Westport is an example that is being studied. It's a very unique situation at Westport. It's what they call a 90-90 school. The poverty level is basically of 90 percent and achievement level of 90 percent or better. It is a tremendous example."

Caswell was another extreme. The school, which has a large percentage of students from poor and minority families, had a similar schools ranking of 8 out of 10 - a good score - but an abysmal 2 rank when compared to all elementary schools in the state.

"Those kids at Caswell are not coming out as competitive as they need to be," said Hanline. "Caswell is even more challenged from a socioeconomic point of view. Caswell and Walter White are our schools with the highest EL population. Caswell is getting there but they're not there yet."

Hanline theorizes that Westport has an advantage over Caswell because of its smaller size; Westport has about 450 students and Caswell has about 650 students.

"It helps when you can really get down individualizing your relationships (with students). Relationships are important. Connection to the community is important because of developing parent involvement and parent expectations."