La Cañada Unified School District ranked the second-highest-performing school district in California for the second year in a row, according to the state Academic Performance Index results released Sept. 13.

This year, LCUSD scored 933 points out of a possible 1,000, an eight-point improvement over 2009.

Every district school in La Cañada has outperformed California's target mark of 800 points, placing above 900 for two years straight.

"We are very proud of this achievement and ascribe it to the hard work of our students, the thorough preparation by our teachers and the motivating support of our parents," Supt. Jim Stratton said. "It is truly a team effort."

The Academic Performance Index is the primary accountability system for all California public schools. Scores are based on results from the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program, the California High School Exit Examination and the California Alternate Performance Assessment.

San Marino Unified School District took the state's top honor once again this year with a score of 949. La Cañada has begun closing the gap, though, cutting its point differential from 27 to 16.

Since 2007, LCUSD has seen a steady rise in its test scores. The district's Academic Performance Index score has increased 23 points over the past three years.

"Our improvement in the last several years is remarkable," said Lindi Dreibelbis Arthur, La Cañada Unified's director of assessment. "We continually focus on the goal of providing students the strongest academic program and support for their success."

Palm Crest Elementary stood out as LCUSD's top-performing school with a score of 969, a 14-point jump from last year, making it the district's most improved school.

A close second was La Cañada Elementary with a mark of 966, the same as last year. Paradise Canyon Elementary was the only district school to take a step back, seeing a five-point drop-off from 960 to 955 in 2010.

A school record was set at La Cañada High. That school's score of 915, a 10-point improvement, was its highest-ever mark on the Academic Performance Index.

"This ranking is wonderful recognition of all the hard work that staff, teachers, administrators, the governing board and community pour into our schools," Arthur said.

The results serve as more than a pat on the back for the district, though, Stratton said.

"Even more important than the scores themselves is the fact that our teachers analyze the test results very carefully to determine how to adjust their instruction to assist all students in mastering the state content standards," Stratton said. "This detailed teacher analysis of test results helps to reveal any possible curriculum gaps and to identify individual student learning needs."