District forecasts 28-point API gain

Before leaving their youngsters in the care of a new teacher, moms Claudia Posey, left, and Dawn Sonnier introduce the children to some of the learning tools in the classroom. The kids, from left, are Brodyn Posey, Colby Posey and Seth White. Kindergarten teacher Joan Gray is seen in the background. Photos by Cid Castillo

Idyllwild School (IS) students scored impressively in the annual California Standardized Testing and Reporting Program exams in language arts, mathematics, algebra, science, and history-social science.

As a result of those impressive category gains, IS principal Matt Kraemer said that Hemet Unified School District (HUSD), of which Idyllwild is a part, forecast that Idyllwild’s Academic Performance Index (API) would likely improve by at least 28 points, raising the school score from 844 to 872, the highest point gain in the district. HUSD also improved its overall STAR performance, although not to the levels demonstrated by IS students.

“It’s a sign of really great kids who are learning, good parents who are involved in the life of the school and, of course, strong teachers and administration,” said Bill Sanborn, HUSD trustee and Idyllwild resident.

Children become first-time kindergarten students as the class headed by teacher Joan Gray starts at Idyllwild School Monday morning, Aug. 22. Parents, including Dennis Rollins, at left, quietly observe the auspicioius moment. A total of 290 students attended the school on its first day of the new school year, including 41 youngsters in kindergarten.
Kraemer also noted the introduction last year of faculty and administration “data teams” as a major factor in helping students post such strong STAR results. Kraemer explained that data teams looked at student performance and created a working model based on proven researched strategies that helped teachers meet stated goals and objectives. “We’ve talked about using this model in the past but this is the first time we’ve done so with this much rigor,” said Kraemer.

In addressing consistent strong results in eighth-grade science (95 percent of students testing proficient and advanced in 2010 with 82 testing advanced; and 87 percent proficient and advanced in 2011), Kraemer acknowledged Lenore Sazer-Krebbers. “She’s a master teacher, to say the least,” he said. “I have great teachers.”

Other standout results were: 86 percent of IS sixth-graders scored proficient and advanced in English-language arts, a 29-percent increase over 2010 results; 71 percent of seventh-graders and 85 percent of eighth-graders testing proficient and advanced in language arts; and 84 percent of eighth-graders scored proficient and advanced in history-social science, an improvement of 21 percent over the previous year results.

On Monday morning, Aug. 22, the first day of the 2011-12 school year, parents at Idyllwild School peek at their children they have just left for the very first time at kindergarten.
y comparison 54 percent of students statewide tested proficient or above in English-language arts. Statewide, only half the students are proficient or better in mathematics. But at Idyllwild, 61 percent of IS fifth-graders tested proficient and advanced, 59 percent of sixth-graders and 61 percent of seventh-graders tested proficient or better. In eighth grade, 54 percent of local students tested proficient or above in general mathematics and 62 percent tested proficient or above in algebra.

IS sixth-graders bested average HUSD same grade in English-language arts by an astonishing 40 points (86 to 46), 19 points for seventh-graders (71 to 52) and 27 points for eighth-graders (85 to 58). Although not as great a difference, IS also beat the district average in math. Fifth-graders posted five points more than HUSD (61 to 56), 19 points for sixth-graders (59 to 40) and 19 points for seventh-graders (61 to 42). Eighth-graders bested the HUSD average by 21 points in general mathematics (54 to 33) and 20 points in algebra (62 to 42).

By any standard, Idyllwild School students, teachers, parents and administration have improved their performance under difficult conditions, such as increased class sizes, squeezed budgets and staffing reductions (which could still occur this year if forecast increases in state revenues don’t materialize).