PIEDMONT -- Piedmont Unified can toot its horn once again with stellar Academic Performance Index (API) scores released last week.

The scores show Piedmont as the highest-ranking unified school district in Northern California and the fourth highest-ranking district in the state.

San Marino, La Cañada and Manhattan Beach school districts, all in Los Angeles County, edged out Piedmont in the 2013 rankings, with 953, 947, and 935, respectively. Piedmont garnered a 933 overall score, down five points from a year ago. Following on Piedmont's heels in the Bay Area were Palo Alto Unified, San Ramon Valley Unified, and Pleasanton Unified.

"Piedmont's students continue to perform at very high levels across subject areas," Assistant Superintendent Randy Booker said. "This is a direct result from the efforts of our teachers, staff, students and active parent community."

All the Piedmont schools individually scored higher than 900 in the API, continuing a tradition of academic excellence. Beach scored at 965, Havens at 947 and Wildwood at 954. Piedmont High scored 908 and Piedmont Middle School scored 963.

The API uses a scale of 200 to 1,000 to measure the academic performance and growth of schools. Points are based on the results of statewide testing across multiple content areas. The points are then averaged across all students and all tests. The API includes results from the California Standards Tests and the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) in grades 10 through 12.

The Standards Tests are administered to grades two through 11 and include English, math, science, social science and history.

The target goal is 800 and higher for schools, but many in Alameda County did not meet that standard this year for a variety of reasons, said state Superintendent Tom Torlakson.

The 244 students at Beach who took the tests scored the highest overall of the Piedmont schools. Beach dropped seven points from 2012, deemed negligible. Wildwood dropped 10 points from last year's API but still scored an "A" for performance from the 202 students tested. Havens, the largest elementary school, only dropped three points from last year, garnering an impressive 947.

The 622 students testing at Piedmont Middle School earned a 963, down 10 points from last year. Piedmont High's 535 testing students received a 908, down eight points from 2012. Overall 1,991 students took tests in the district. Piedmont has received high scores in the API over the past five years, scoring 921 in 2009, 925 in 2010, 930 in 2011 and 938 in 2012. Booker said while the educational data is valuable, educators use the data to identify where to focus on content areas and skills in which students show signs of deficiencies.

"We spend considerable time examining a variety of other assessment indicators to give a full picture of student performance."

Booker said the district will continue to work with students throughout the year to improve skills where needed.

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