WHITTIER – Six local schools received the highest possible academic ranking in new test results released Tuesday by the California Department of Education. The 2005 Academic Performance Index, based on last year’s testing results, showed that nearly nine out of 10 Whittier-area schools were able to increase or maintain their API scores from the previous year. Six out of more than 100 local schools received a perfect “similar schools” ranking of 10 when their test results were compared with 100 schools with similar demographics from throughout the state. The six are North Ranchito Elementary in Pico Rivera, Rancho Santa Gertrudes Elementary in Santa Fe Springs, Morrison Elementary in Norwalk, Olita Elementary in La Habra and Jordan Elementary and Rancho-Starbuck Intermediate in Whittier. “It’s very exciting,” said North Ranchito Principal Silvia Borjas, who added that the school uses several motivational and academic techniques to help the students perform well. They include high expectations, standards-based instruction, an emphasis on reading comprehension, teacher collaboration, parent involvement and intervention programs before and after school. “This is only my third year at this school, but we’ve seen steady gains and tremendous growth,” Borjas said. “The students have made this community proud.” In releasing the API base reports Tuesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said less than a third of California schools have met the state’s goal of scoring at 800 or above on the API, but a majority of them continue to make progress every year. “California students, by any measurement, continue to make academic progress. Public education in the state of California is on the right track,” O’Connell said. Locally, the highest rankings and scores were seen in the Lowell Joint School District, which is in the midst of chopping nearly $2 million from its budget next year. All five of the district’s elementary schools scored above the state’s target of 800, and Rancho-Starbuck Intermediate was only three points shy of that mark. Half of Lowell Joint schools received a top similar-schools ranking of 10, while Macy Elementary received a “statewide” ranking of 10. Statewide rankings compare a school with all other schools in the state, regardless of demographics. “Naturally we’re very pleased and our schools are to be congratulated,” said interim Assistant Superintendent Margaret Randolph. Now, Randolph says, the goal is to maintain and focus more efforts on improving performance among English learners and low-income students. Statewide, nearly 12 percent of high schools have met the 800 API target, compared with just 5 percent when the API system began in 1999. O’Connell attributed improvements to the looming high school exit exam, which for the first time this year students are required to pass in order to graduate. At the Whittier Union High School District, all schools improved their API scores, which range from 361 at Frontier High – a continuation school – to 697 at La Serna High. The district’s statewide rankings were either maintained or increased, and most schools increased their similar-schools ranking. “Clearly, by using our testing data to determine where interventions are needed, we are hitting our marks and our students are performing,” said Superintendent Sandra Thorstenson. “Now we’re focused on staying the course so that we can continue this improvement.” Wire reports contributed to this story. [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3051 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!