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FUHS students boost Academic Performance Index numbers

After a year of Fallbrook High School (FUHS) officials and teachers reinforcing the importance of state and federal testing, the students have made large strides in boosting their academic ranking when compared to similar schools statewide.

After seeing that FUHS received a 727 on the Academic Performance Index (API) Report in 2008, which meant that they were given a school ranking of five out of 10 when compared to similar schools and six out of 10 statewide, assistant principal Adam Dawson and principal Rod King decided it was time to bring awareness of the test’s importance to students.

“The API is used to gauge the effectiveness of a school’s educational success by the state,” said Dawson. “We really wanted to show these kids and the community that these tests do matter. People [who may be interested in moving to the area] won’t move into our community if our API scores are low.”

Dawson believes students were unaware of the test’s impact, as the results neither impacted their grade point average nor were placed on their transcripts.

In order to help students understand the importance of these tests, several actions were taken to promote participation.

“All teachers at FUHS utilize Monday morning as a common planning day,” said Dawson. “We focus our data, assess our students and eliminate anything that is not accepted as a widely used standard in education. Many teachers use college prep as common curriculum, and we have found it is more holistic for teachers to teach their students the same material.”

Students were allowed to see their individual scores and compare their ranking with those of other students in their grade.

Teachers helped students whose scores were “below classic” to set goals and keep track of progress, which allowed students to “take steps in proficiency,” said Dawson.

“To help these students, we have strategic classes that are a smaller staff-to-student ratio of 20 to one,” said Dawson.

“For example, if a student is below basic in algebra, they go to a strategic class that helps reinforce what was learned in class,” said King. “You can tell by the improvement in our testing scores that we have taken huge strides. Our staff has worked hard with their students.”

Advanced students are also recognized for their hard work and efforts.

“We identify star students who are advanced and have demonstrated improvement,” said Dawson. “We congratulated them and held a pep rally and ‘star’ dance to marry the idea of improving the school’s rating and testing.”

Although the high school had achieved higher levels recently with state testing, Fallbrook is still identified as a Year One Program Improvement school under the federal No Child Left Behind Act because it has not met the federal accountability measure, known as the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), for two consecutive years.

The high school had 27.4 percent of its 10th grade English Language Learner (ELL) students score proficient or advanced on the California High School Exit Exam instead of the 44.5 percent target, and only 31.2 percent of the ELL students were proficient in mathematics.

Fallbrook High did, however, meet the requirements on the other 20 of the 22 AYP criteria.

King is optimistic about improving the two areas for the upcoming year, while reminding parents that state and federal testing are not the only means of determining academic success.

“We don’t want a test to drive what we do,” he said. “We look at our students and see what we can do to help them achieve.”

King commends his teaching staff, who he believes is doing an exemplary job with their limited resources.

“A lot of good work is being done to improve the way our students learn,” he said. “In light of the state’s budget problem, our teaching staff is tremendously effective with less and less resources available. My hat is off to them.”


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