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Shifting student population may explain Estrellita's tumble

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Posted: Friday, September 5, 2008 10:00 pm

In response to a huge decline in test scores, Galt Union High School District Superintendent Thomas Gemma said Friday that he and fellow administrators are analyzing the data from Estrellita Continuation High School and determining how to better prepare for next year.

Even so, the nature of the campus and its student enrollment may have been the greatest performance predictor.

The school suffered a huge decline of 144 points in its Adequate Yearly Progress goals released to the public Thursday. The score fell from its base of 699 to 555, news that was especially hard to take since the continuation campus made huge strides the previous year. It raised its score from 512 to 699.

"With the steady growth we've made in the past year, I think the students may have plateaued," Gemma said.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires schools and school districts to meet a variety of academic performance bechmarks in order to reach their AYP goals.

Schools and school districts that participate in Title 1, a federal program that provides money for low-income students, are placed in Program Improvement if they do not meet their AYP goals.

Schools statewide were supposed to hit a more difficult target this year for the AYP program. The percentage of students who must be proficient in English language arts and math increased significantly for the first time in three years.

Gemma said the new benchmark may have had something to do with Estrellita's fall, but he and fellow administrators are focusing more on the testing process.

Because Estrellita is an alternative high school, students may attend one month and not the next. "We're inquiring as to when they took the tests, how long they had been there," Gemma said.

This year, 85 Estrellita students were tested, compared to only 27 last year. Principal Tony Lara added that 62 students transferred in, many with a deficiency in credits.

"It is what it is. It's hard to keep up with increases because of the kids who come in," he said of the nature of the school's enrollment.

"We put everything in place. We have tutorials, textbooks, everything the government requires," said Lara, who was already scheduled to speak to the school board Tuesday on the school's test scores. He was named the state's Continuation High School Principal of the Year by the California Continuing Education Association partly for the strides in test scores last year.

In addition to the 187-point gain from 2006 to 2007, Estrellita has seen other increases as much as 200 points only to drop drastically again the following year, according to Lara.

Once again, Galt Joint Union High School District as a whole met all of its AYP requirements this year, although its overall score took a slight dip, falling from 731 to 727. In 2007, the district dropped 10 points.

"We have some mixed information," Gemma said of the overall scores. "On one part, on the federal level, we see a growing number of proficient scores. On the state level, it looks like our subgroups, like dealing with the socio-economic group, went down.

"That was a real surprise. We've got our work cut out for us."

Galt High School met the federal accountability measure in all 22 of its 22 criteria, but failed under the state standards and therefore took a small step backward.

"Although a one-point decline is not significant, we are challenged to ask ourselves why we have moved backwards after five years of steady improvements," said Associate Superintendent of Curriculum Edith Crawford.

"These discussions will be done in departments, as a faculty, and with our parent/student communities. We will also look at other data such as grades, graduation rates and the like. Issues such as space because of overcrowding and the school calendar may have also played a role in the decline."

The superintendent is looking forward to the opening of Liberty Ranch High School in fall 2009 to reduce the overcrowded climate at Galt High School that may have contributed to lower scores districtwide.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 8:59 am on Sat, Sep 13, 2008.


    It failed only in the two years after he took over. Yes, a new Board would help as long as it included Dennis Richardson and Kathleen Amos. The overcrowding is not the problem at EHS nor is it at GHS...the test scores rose in the years it was most crowded

  • posted at 3:08 am on Sat, Sep 6, 2008.


    WOW-----Mr. Gemma is responsible for 2 schools and makes well over $120,000 to watch these schools fail for so many years. Sad Sad Sad maybe a new school board will help him find the door???



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