I am pleased to be writing with good news about the student achievement data we have received this fall from the state. The results show that we are moving in the right direction. As a district, we improved our Academic Performance Index (API) score overall from 841 in 2011 to 847 in 2012, building on our three previous years of API growth in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Overall, 12 of our 15 schools (80 percent) exceeded the state API target score of 800 with 6 of those 12 even exceeding 900. Moreover, 13 of 15 schools (87%) increased API scores compared to last year, a remarkable accomplishment.

Because of the hard work of students, teachers, and staff, we can all be proud of this strong academic growth in the Alameda Unified School District. Just like all other school districts across California, we continue to face significant educational and financial challenges. But we are happy to share these latest test results which confirm that our proactive long-term planning and our educational initiatives have Alameda students on the right track.

Thanks to the community's passage of Measure A, the district's prudent financial planning, and ongoing strong support of our schools in Alameda, we have also been able to maintain our thriving extracurricular and athletics programs for students, keep our class sizes small and our neighborhood schools open, and have a solid three-year budget in place without furloughs or cuts this year. As we await the results of the important votes on state initiatives next week and the governor's new budget proposals which will follow in January, we are grateful for the strong foundation we have built together with the community and the positive momentum we have maintained.

In addition to being the fourth consecutive year of rising API scores overall, our latest results show gains districtwide in English language arts and math specifically, as well as significant improvement among subgroups of students, notably African American/black students and Latino students. Despite the many gains, the API scores also confirm that achievement gaps persist in Alameda as they do across California and the nation, so we must continue to do our very best to provide the best educational opportunities we possibly can for every student in the district as part of our collective responsibility.

Finally, we are very proud that earlier this month the Alameda County Office of Education named Lincoln Middle School teacher Chris Hansen Alameda County's "Teacher of the Year." At the annual ceremony for Teachers of the Year from all school districts in Alameda County, Mr. Hansen was honored for his outstanding teaching and was chosen to advance for consideration as the California Teacher of the Year. He is the second AUSD teacher in the past four years to be named county Teacher of the Year. Mr. Hansen is a great representative of all the caring, dedicated teachers we are fortunate to have serving our students every day in the district. All of us in Alameda congratulate him on this well-deserved award.

Kirsten Vital is the superintendent of the Alameda Unified School District.