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Schools Score Big In API Testing
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Overall, the news was good. Very good.

The API, Academic Performance Index, numbers for the Escalon Unified School District show more than one site hitting the coveted '800' target and more getting close to the goal.

Farmington Elementary was actually the highest, coming in with an API of 807. Farmington was followed by El Portal Middle School, at 805, and Dent Elementary, which hit the 800 mark on the nose.

Dent hosted a Friday morning party to celebrate the occasion, complete with a reprise of a teacher dance number to 'Party in the U.S.A.' that was used to motivate the students before they took the tests last spring. Ice cream, given to the school at a huge discount by the local Big Dipper shop, was served to all the students following the party. Denty the Dragon also put in an appearance to cheer on the students.

Meanwhile, administrators were pleased with the results, praising the work of both staff and students in reaching established goals.

"The Escalon Unified School District is up 19 points, to 785 and that was the largest gain for a unified school district in San Joaquin County," said District Superintendent Ron Costa.

He pointed to the efforts of Assistant Superintendent Joel Johannsen in the curriculum area as being key, in addition to a team approach.

"The teachers are working very hard," Costa said. "Our students are working hard to increase these numbers. It's hard work, the scores are reflective of that."

Costa said Johannsen's work with school site councils has been beneficial and five of seven district schools showed increases in their scores from the previous year.

Farmington jumped by 79 points to 807; El Portal, up 19 to 805; Dent up 3 points to 800; Van Allen Elementary (which also had an ice cream party on Friday) was up 6 points to 789 and Escalon High School was up 25 points to 775. Only Vista, down 35 to 485 and Collegeville, down 7 points to 747, showed losses from year to year.

Costa said many subgroup targets were met, but those that didn't will be a focus this year, as the school district as a whole works to continue improvement.

Johannsen said the news was something that students, teachers and parents can be proud of. He also noted adoption of new curriculum and new English Language Acquisition programs as being keys, anticipating increases in subgroups over the next couple of years due to those changes.

"We're on a real high here," Costa agreed. "The goal was to get some (district) schools to the 800 mark and we have three at or above that. Our district is knocking on the door of being an 800 district.

"Escalon should be very proud. We're very pleased with the progress the district is making."

Johannsen was quick to add that the leadership Costa has shown since taking over last year as the District Superintendent played a major role in the improvement.

"He has allowed us to narrow our focus down to where it needs to be," Johannsen explained. "That has helped students be successful in the classroom."