Three Westchester elementary schools surpassed state benchmarks for test scores for 2007, according to the California Department of Education.

Cowan Avenue, Loyola Village and Paseo del Rey Elementary schools all exceeded the level of 800 on the Academic Performance Index for 2007.

The performance index measures the academic performance and growth of schools on a variety of scholastic measures.

The State Department of Education ranks schools on a scale of 200 to 1,000 with 800 serving as a desired benchmark.

“I’m pleased that California schools continue to rise to the challenge of high expectation,” state school superintendent Jack O’Connell said on May 21st, the day that the scores were announced.

Cowan scored 821, Paseo del Rey 809 and Loyola Village 806.

Melinda Goodall, who is in her fourth year as the principal of Loyola Village, credited strong teacher collaboration within the various grade levels as one of the many reasons that her school was able to surpass the state benchmark.

“We also work very closely with our literacy and math coaches for best practices,” the Loyola Village principal added.

At Paseo del Rey, parents are excited about their school’s academic prowess. Gina Kafner, a past president of the school’s Parent-Teacher Executive Board, says that her fifth-grader, Matthew, has had the benefit of excellent teachers at the school, which in turn leads to good test scores.

“My husband and I have been thrilled with the education he received at a school that is blocks from our home in Playa del Rey,” said Kafner. “Every teacher he had was fully credentialed and enthusiastic, and each has had a great love of teaching, and they gave my son the great gift of the love of learning.”

She also praised the school’s principal, Jennifer Sullivan.

“Our wonderful principal leads the school so very well,” Kafner said.

Francine Julius-Edwards, executive vice president of Paseo del Rey’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), echoed Kafner regarding the role that teachers, parents and the administration play in garnering high academic achievement.

“It’s an alignment of everyone working with the students that really makes for good academics,” she said.

Added Kafner, “We have wonderful parent involvement and do our very best to raise funds to cover expenses that have been cut due to budget cuts.”

Two other Westchester schools, Westport Heights and Kentwood Elementary schools scored 783 and 763, respectively.

While the elementary schools scored high in their performance indexes and growth targets, Orville Wright Middle School and Westchester High did not fare as well.

The middle school, which many parents and teachers feel has made great strides in academic performance in recent years, tallied 708 on its API score and the high school scored 589.

“A score of 589 means that the school has some improving to do,” said Susan Cox, a Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman.

The high school has had its moments as well. Five seniors were awarded scholarships to UCLA in April, and nine others won acceptance to the university.

Nevertheless, room for improvement remains at the high school, as the close of another scholastic year approaches.

“With [Westchester High’s] API score, there are opportunities for improvement, but every gain is also an improvement,” Cox pointed out.

O’Connell said, “Overall, I am pleased with the direction and trajectory which our schools and test scores are showing, but I still am concerned about the high schools. They continue to track in the right direction, but not nearly as many are reaching the target and goal of 800 that I’d like.”

Westchester High scored a “1” in the category of how each campus ranks in percentiles among the high schools in the state. The top score is “10.”

Calls to Westchester High principal Anita Barner and Orville Wright principal Stephen Rochelle had not been returned at Argonaut press time.

Many Westchester parents and teachers are hopeful that with the onset of the recently approved autonomy of some Westchester schools within the school district, test scores at both Orville Wright and Westchester High will also continue to see improvement.

Five of the seven Westchester schools have voted to join the Innovation Division, which was created to model a new method of school governance.

The hope is that with increased parental involvement and a greater say in how their students are taught, community members, educators and parents can help their youngsters begin to compete collectively for academic excellence citywide.

Paseo del Rey and Loyola Village are the two schools that have yet to vote to decide whether or not to join the iDivision, as the new district department is known.