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The California Department of Education on Thursday released its latest round of public school rankings, from one to 10, based on how well students performed on standardized tests they took more than a year ago.

The rankings show schools how they compare with others based on an annual composite score known as the Academic Performance Index, or API, which is based on a series of state tests. The original API scores for 2011 were reported late last summer; the scores that schools received this week simply reflect the latest changes to the state formula. This allows schools to make a more valid comparison between last year's scores and the new data expected to come out at the end of the summer.

Academic Performance Index

The rankings are evenly distributed. Ten percent of California's elementary schools, for example, earn a statewide ranking of 10, meaning they had higher API scores than 90 percent of the state's elementary schools. The same number of schools earn a one, meaning their scores were in the bottom 10 percent.

Another ranking system, also published Thursday by the Department of Education, compares each school to 99 similar schools based on their demographics and educational challenges. The top 10 schools in that pool receive a ranking of 10, and the bottom 10 receive a one.

In Alameda County, 21 schools earned a 10 in both categories, including Lincoln Elementary in Oakland; Jefferson Elementary in Berkeley; Dublin High; Piedmont High; and the 790-student James Leitch Elementary in Fremont, which recently won a National Blue Ribbon award.


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In Contra Costa County, eight schools earned that double-10 distinction. Happy Valley Elementary in Lafayette, Sycamore Valley Elementary in San Ramon and Madera Elementary in El Cerrito were among them.

Leitch Principal Mary Liu Lee hadn't even seen the ratings by midafternoon Thursday; she'd spent the day visiting her teachers as they packed up their classrooms for the summer.

"It just fills you with pride," she said. "The kids, they really work hard and the teachers, too."

She added: "I'm going to write an email right now."

On the flip side, 15 schools in Contra Costa County and 33 in Alameda County fell in the bottom 10 percent in both categories -- the statewide rankings and when compared to similar schools. In Alameda County, 24 of them are Oakland schools, seven are in Hayward and two are in San Lorenzo.

Normally, schools receive these rankings, along with tweaked composite test scores, earlier in the spring, before or during state testing season. This time, many schools were out for the summer by the time the information was published.

State education department data analysts had extra work to do this year in adjusting the API scores, said Jenny Singh, administrator of academic accountability for the department. A new state regulation defines when students are "continuously enrolled" in a public school -- and therefore, when their scores should count in that school's results. Another establishes what to do with the scores of students who transfer midyear to alternative schools.

Before, local districts made those determinations themselves, Singh said. Now, it will be consistent from district to district.

The 2011 Base API report is posted on the California Department of Education's website: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ap/apireports.asp.

Read Katy Murphy's Oakland schools blog at www.IBAbuzz.com/education. Follow her at Twitter.com/katymurphy.