The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has surpassed the state’s Academic Performance Index (API) target for the sixth consecutive year but continues to see achievement gaps among minority students and students with disabilities, according to a statewide progress report.

Santa Monica-Malibu schools increased the district’s overall API score by 11 points in 2011 to an all-time high of 854, according to the state’s Accountability Progress Report (APR). The statewide achievement target is 800.

School officials tout that the district continues to outperform the state and the county as a whole in regards to the academic proficiency measure.

“The 2011 API report speaks to the professionalism and commitment of our classroom teachers, school administrators, support staff and district staff,” district Superintendent Sandra Lyon said. “Based on these results, we will move forward with our strategic plan to focus on specific programs and projects that will yield continued gains for all students and effectively close the pernicious achievement gaps that exist.”

The state’s Academic Performance Index score is based on the California Standards Tests in English language arts, mathematics, science and history. In 2011, all SMMUSD schools exceeded the state’s 800 mark with the exception of Olympic High School, which scored 560. The highest score of 957 was earned by Franklin Elementary.

Malibu High School and Santa Monica High School experienced the greatest gains for 2011, with 27 and 18 points respectively, while Lincoln Middle School’s API climbed above the 900 mark for the first time.

The report additionally addresses the federal accountability system. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, schools and districts that receive federal Title I funding are held accountable for meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which is based solely on test scores in English language arts and math.

Students are counted either as proficient or not proficient and each year, proficiency levels are measured against an Annual Measurable Objective (AMO).

This year, SMMUSD achieved a 75.9 percent proficiency rate in English language arts and 71.4 percent in math.

As with API, the federal accountability model requires that schools and districts meet the AMO for all groups of students, but according to the report, the district has fallen short of the mark due to achievement gaps for students of color, low-income students, English learners and students with disabilities.

This is the second year in a row that SMMUSD has missed the AYP target, and as a result, the district plans to work toward Program Improvement, officials said.

“We are looking at research-based programs and practices, specifically those aimed at closing the achievement gap,” said Maureen Bradford, director of Assessment, Research and Evaluation.

“We will continue to offer students an enriching and full curriculum, including our stellar visual and performing arts programs. This is what our community expects and deserves.”

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Sally Chou added, “Our revised plan will ensure alignment of our curriculum with the newly adopted Common Core Standards. We will provide professional development for our teachers and administrators to sharpen their tools, including the use of technology. What goes on in classrooms makes the greatest impact on student achievement and the district office is here to support classroom instruction.”

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