Kelley Atherton, The Triplicate

Board concerned about new scores at Del Norte High

The California Department of Education recently released revised school district scores for student achievement.

When School Board members reviewed the updated numbers last week, they were concerned about some of the results - especially at Del Norte High School.

The results leave DNHS "near the bottom" when compared to similar schools elsewhere, Superintendent Don Olson told the board members.

Del Norte County schools have been making strides in raising

student test scores over the last several years, but some are still


The district is currently undergoing systematic reform to improve

student achievement. This will include teachers and administrators

sharing best teaching practices and ideas, routinely assessing students'

knowledge and targeting what exactly they're struggling to understand.

Each school district is given an Academic Performance Index (API)

score of up to 1,000 points based on student test scores on the

California Standards Tests.

The score is released at the end of summer for tests taken that

past spring. Then the following spring, the API score is adjusted to

reflect the fact that students have moved on to another grade or kids

have moved into the district.

There's a score for the district as a whole and each school individually.

This is the score that "we work from," Superintendent Don Olson told the School Board on Thursday.

Board members were concerned about Del Norte High School's low score and low rank among other high schools.

The collective score from standards taken this spring will be

released later this summer. Schools and districts are expected to make a

little progress each year, with the goal being to reach 800 points.

The district's adjusted 2011 API score is 751 points.

Two schools, Mary Peacock Elementary and Redwood Elementary, have surpassed 800 points: 808 and 824 points, respectively.

Some other local schools are getting close to the 800-point target.

Bess Maxwell Elementary had 774 points and Crescent Elk Middle School

had 776 points.

Other schools are struggling. Joe Hamilton has 730 points, Smith River Elementary 705 and Del Norte High School 714.

Each school is also compared to schools of similar size and

demographics in California and ranked from 1-10. One is the lowest

score, putting a school in the bottom 10 percent of students' test


Student test scores have risen at most Del Norte schools, but have remained stagnant at some.

Crescent Elk's test scores top 80 percent of middle schools with

similar demographics. Redwood and Bess Maxwell test scores are better

than 70 percent of similar schools.

Mary Peacock - even though it had the second-highest score in the

district - ranks in the 40th percentile of similar schools. Pine Grove

had 749 points, but is in the 20th percentile. Smith River is in the

30th percentile of similar schools.

DNHS test scores rank in the bottom 10 percent of similar high schools, which alarmed board members.

Olson said there have been "changes in leadership" at the high

school with a shifting of principals over the years. Principals are

working to make changes and improve student achievement, he said.

"They don't like seeing this," Olson said. "This is not where they want to be."

Change is afoot with the professional learning communities that

will be formed among teachers and principals as part of a district-wide

effort to reform the Del Norte school system. Reading coaches will be

assessing students to see if they really understand what they've been

taught, Olson said.

Those schools that Del Norte is compared to are also getting better and raising the bar of achievement, he said.

"Everyone is focused on student achievement," Olson said.

Schools are expected to improve their 2011 base API score by at

least 5 points this year. The 2012 scores by which to compare these

scores will be released in September.

Reach Kelley Atherton at