La Canada High  School Principal Ian McFeat welcomes students.

La Canada High School Principal Ian McFeat welcomes students to the first day of school this year. The LCUSD maintained its high ranking in API results released this week. (August 29, 2013)

The La Cañada Unified School District remains the second-highest achieving public unified school district in California, according to rankings released Thursday by the state Department of Education.

LCUSD retained the No. 2 spot behind San Marino Unified despite a five-point drop in the local district’s overall Academic Performance Index score, based largely on the results of state tests taken by students in the spring.

LCUSD scored 947 out of a possible 1,000 — an “outstanding” number that shows continued strong performance throughout the district in every subject area, said Lindi Dreibelbis, LCUSD’s chief director of assessment and research.

This is the fifth year in row that LCUSD has posted the state’s second-highest score, she said.

“We’re really proud of our performance,” Dreibelbis said. “It attests to the quality of the schools, the instruction, our teachers, our students, school leaders, parents and community involvement.”

La Cañada Elementary continued to post the highest overall API among LCUSD schools, but Palm Crest Elementary made significant gains.

La Cañada Elementary scored 970, a five-point drop from last year.

Palm Crest Elementary increased to 967 over 960 last year.

Paradise Canyon Elementary moved down two points to 957.

La Cañada High School dropped nine points to 937, but that score was five points higher than San Marino High School’s. Statewide, high schools tend to post much lower API scores than elementary schools due to the difficulty of the test, Dreibelbis said.

Dreibelbis also said this year’s standardized tests appeared to be more challenging than previous versions, as each of the ten highest-performing unified school districts in the state showed overall declines or no growth in their API scores.

San Marino Unified, which has held the No. 1 API score in the state for 10 years, had an overall API of 953, down two points from last year.

Two districts that tied for third place scored 935, 12 points lower than LCUSD.

Because LCUSD’s API numbers were so high to begin with, up or down fluctuations limited to single digits indicate consistently high student achievement, said Craig Mazin, president of the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation.

“Based on this year’s numbers we’re doing really, really well,” Mazin said. “You’re talking gradations of an A-plus.”

Glendale Unified School District campuses attended by students living in the westernmost portion of La Cañada Flintridge also saw API declines and scored lower than corresponding LCUSD schools.

Mountain Avenue Elementary School dropped 10 points this year, from 952 to 942.

Rosemont Middle School dropped 22 points, from 959 to 937.

Crescenta Valley High School dropped six points, from 894 to 888.

Overall, Glendale Unified scored an API of 861, a one-point decline.

Dreibelbis said LCUSD students scored among the top-three statewide in every subject area, maintained previous gains in algebra and did particularly well in science.

It remains unclear, however, how the academic performance of California public schools will be measured next year, she said.

State education officials are in the process of switching from the state curriculum standards of the past decade to the more complex Common Core State Standards, which align closely with nationwide goals for improved math and English performance.

“I think there are going to be some growing pains as Common Core is implemented and assessment changes, because all districts will be judged through a new lens. But we certainly expect and anticipate our performance to continue to be very strong,” Dreibelbis said.

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