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Sonora scores tops in the county

Sonora Elementary third- and fourth-grade classes make a 110-point jump on their Academic Performance Index scores.

September 08, 2007|By Joseph Serna

About 100 Sonora Elementary School third- and fourth-graders paraded by their classmates Friday morning, slapping hands and receiving praise while Queen’s “We are the Champions” blared in the background.

You’d think they just won some kind of local championship.

Well, in fact, they did better than the rest of Orange County, but it wasn’t in sports.

According to state Academic Performance Index scores released last week, Sonora Elementary’s 110-point leap in performance index scores topped the growth of any other elementary school in Orange County.

Sonora Elementary’s academic performance index score is 819.

“We were really only shooting for 50 points,” Sonora Principal Christine Anderson said. “We were absolutely thrilled by the growth.”

A school’s index score is the state’s performance indicator — the scores range from 200 to 1000 — and are calculated using state standardizes tests and high school exit exam results. California and the federal governmentshare a goal to have all schools at least proficient (a score of 800) in math and English by 2014.

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More impressive, Sonora’s subgroups, or cross-sections of the student population broken down into categories, saw huge improvements from last year — an average of 150 points among the Latino, economically disadvantaged and English-learner groups.

Some subgroups, in particular English-learner and special education children, usually require additional tutoring.

“How are we going to make them hit the 800 mark?” Anderson said. “One of the biggest things was that our school had a total school focus. Everyone was helping every child. We were actually meeting as a group to discuss how we could help all children, not just who’s in your class or who’s in this grade level.”

Thanks to district and school money, Sonora brought on an extra full-time teacher and two aides, all of which would work with smaller groups of students on their weakest subjects.

A couple of keys to the students’ latest success: refined, front-loaded teaching, or introducing the subject to the students before its taught to them in class and intervening with a struggling student before they fall too far behind.

“Pre-teaching is 100% more effective than re-teaching,” Anderson said, adding, “You get more bang for your buck on an intervention of a 5- or 6-year-old than waiting till fourth or fifth grade.”

Sonora added a fourth-grade class this year and is waiting for the school board to address a proposal to add fifth- and possibly sixth-grade classes to the school.

Other elementary schools that showed remarkable gains were Killybrooke’s 41 points, bringing them to 815, Victoria Elementary’s 39-point gain to 865, and Pomona Elementary’s 33-point jump to 664.

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