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District fights state ruling

School officials say Cerritos, Muir don't belong on low-performing list of schools.

October 25, 2010|By Max Zimbert, max.zimbert@latimes.com

Glendale Unified is appealing a state decision to put two local campuses on a list of the 1,000 lowest-performing schools in California.

Cerritos and Muir Elementary schools were caught up in a bill that authorized the California Department of Education to create a list of the 1,000 lowest-performing schools.

District officials and school board members cleared the action, arguing that the Open Enrollment Act that became law in January contradicts the standard academic achievement measures that have been in place since 1999.

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"It appears that this … has given a conflicting measure by which schools are identified as underperforming or not high-performing," Deputy Supt. John Garcia said. "It creates a separate accountability system that conflicts with the current accountability system."

The Academic Performance Index ranges from 200 to 1,000, and state leaders have said 800 or higher is the mark of a high-achieving campus and school district. Cerritos grew by 24 points and scored 790 on the API, while Muir fell from 815 to 798, according to the state Department of Education.

The low-achieving list compiles schools with equal proportions of elementary, middle and high schools, excludes charter, juvenile court, community day and other schools, and ranks API scores. Charter school and education reform advocates said it would empower parent groups affected by chronically failing neighborhood public schools to switch schools if their campus was listed.

But it's a misnomer, detractors say, as no district can have more than 10% of its schools included in the list of lowest-performing California public schools.

"That's why you find achieving schools that are even higher than 800 … on this low achieving list," said Mary Boger, a board member and vice president of the California School Boards Assn. "The legislation was specifically written to exempt districts that might have all their schools on this list."

Appeals are tough to win, but district officials said they are confident the 11-member state Board of Education cannot deny their request.

Waivers are denied only if they cause harm, raise state spending or circumvent other public agencies, district officials said.

Board members instructed staff to begin assembling binders of data as they prepare for a hearing in Sacramento scheduled for January.

"These two schools have made such progress and are doing so well," Boger said.

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