Failure to test may cost some schools

Performance Index: Too many students might have been exempted at nine county schools

The Ventura County school that had the largest increase in the state’s Academic Performance Index didn’t test half its students and might lose cash rewards.

Mar Vista School gained 162 points on the state’s Academic Performance Index but it did not test 50 percent of its students. The state average for parental exemptions is 1.2 percent.

The school must now submit an explanation as to why a high number of parents requested their children be exempted from taking the Stanford 9, the state-required achievement test. Based on the explanation, the school may lose cash rewards given to schools that met or beat their goals on the API.

Eight other elementary schools were also identified as having a high number of parental waivers. Two were named in the Ocean View School District: Laguna Vista with 16.6 percent exempted and Tierra Vista with 28 percent.

Three campuses in the Hueneme School District were named: Haycox with 23 percent, Sunkist with 11 percent and Parkview with 14 percent. The neighboring Oxnard School District had one campus cited: Chavez with 10.8 percent exempted. The remaining two schools were in the Ventura Unified School District: E.P. Foster with 14.7 percent and Sheridan Way with 17 percent.

School district officials and principals said Wednesday the numbers were high because parents of limited-English speaking students did not want their children to be tested.

“Parents in this community are saying the Stanford 9 is not necessarily appropriate for their children, being their children can’t read or write in English,” said Ocean View Superintendent Nancy Carroll.

Carroll said “parents do hold us accountable” because the district gives a Spanish-language achievement test and does some testing inEnglish.

State officials will review the districts’ responses and then determine if the schools are still eligible to receive cash rewards, which can range from hundreds of dollars to as much as $25,000 per teacher.

Hueneme School District Superintendent Robert Fraisse said he’s confident his schools are still eligible for rewards. He said his district can show the schools’ test scores would have been the same even if the exempted students took the test and scored low.

School districts cannot encourage or discourage parents from signing a waiver, Fraisse said. His schools remained neutral on the issue, he said.

Carroll and Mar Vista Principal Jaime Verdugo said school staff also did not solicit waivers from parents. Carroll said that parents have become more informed about their options since the passage of Proposition 227. The initiative curtailed bilingual education and allowed parents to sign waivers allowing their children to remain in bilingual classes.

Both also downplayed the impact of losing cash rewards for their schools.

“The focus here is to make sure our students are learning,” Carroll said.

— Letisia Marquez’s e-mail address is [email protected]

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