Oakmont makes API gains, celebrates with a splash

There was cause for jubilation on Friday, November 9 at Oakmont Elementary School during a morning Celebration of Success.

Not only did the school make a startling 86-point gain in its 2011 Academic Performance Index score (API), one of the largest leaps in the state of California. After a lot of hard work, Oakmont students got a chance to thumb their nose at authority for a bit, soaking their teachers and Principal Stacey Stewart in a dunk tank.

An API score is a single number representing a school’s improvement in state testing. Oakmont’s success, in the form of a whopping 859-point total, is particularly heartening because the school was in its second year of Program Improvement status during the 2010-2011 school year.

When a Title 1 school site is identified as having made insufficient progress under No Child Left Behind legislation, the school must send a letter to parents notifying them that they have the option to transfer their children to another local school. A school in Program Improvement status must also quickly create a 2-year plan featuring professional development for instructors and incorporating parent involvement.

A school in its second year of Program Improvement status must provide supplemental educational services like tutoring to low-income students. A school that lands in the Program Improvement category for a 3rd year must either hire an outside expert or consider more drastic options, from replacing the school staff to extending the school year or school day to a complete restructuring.

In 2010-2011, Oakmont’s API score grew by one point. Having upped the ante by such a large figure with the latest API results, the school is poised to relinquish its on-watch status. All the school has to do to leave Program Improvement behind is to make a 4 percent gain school-wide and among significant subgroups for the 2012-2013 school year.

To give an idea of a similar local school’s performance in recent years, Sycamore School had an API of 877 for the 2011-2012 school year.

Ms. Stewart is delighted with Oakmont’s performance.

“I want to make sure the teachers, staff and students are applauded for their dedication and hard work,” she said. “It was an absolutely amazing accomplishment.”

Ms. Stewart attributes the school’s growth to a laser-like focus on the part of administration and staff. Their 3-pronged approach included making sure students understand learning objectives for each lesson and giving them immediate feedback as to their progress; employing Kagan learning structures, where students collaborate to learn subject matter in a cooperative way; and fostering school-wide communication norms, helping to get every student quickly on task and on the same page.

For instance, a teacher in any class at Oakmont who wants to grab students’ attention might employ a “high 5,” holding up his or her hand and then counting backwards from 5 to one until the children are listening.

Most recently, Oakmont teachers, staff and administration wanted students to make sure students heard this word: congratulations. 

With this in mind, the Celebration of Success featured all kinds of kid-friendly fun, including face painting, inflatable Sumo wrestling suits, a rock-climbing wall, cotton candy, live music and a giant slide. There was also a notable visitor, Claremont Mayor Larry Schroeder, who stopped by to present Oakmont with a certificate of achievement.

Oakmont parents are thrilled to hear their kids exceeded API goal of 800 so roundly, Ms. Stewart shared.

“The other Claremont schools have congratulated us and are extremely excited for us,” she said. 

Many administrators and teachers have complained about the increasing strictures of No Child Left Behind. With improvement expected each year, the ultimate goal for a school is that 100 percent of students be proficient or above in math and English Language Arts.

Perfection may be impossibile, but Ms. Stewart said she is very optimistic about Oakmont reaching next year’s target academic goals.

“We’ll totally make it!”

—Sarah Torribio





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