September 24, 2008

Montclair High’s API Up 45 in 1 Year

By Canan Tasci

MONTCLAIR - Montclair High School's Academic Performance Index score eight years ago was considered dismal.

However, after years of hard work, the school's API results have jumped 200 points.

Montclair High scored a 691 on the 2007-08 API that was released earlier this month.

The score was an increase of 45 points from the school's 2006-07 score - making the school's score the second highest among San Bernardino County public schools.

The target growth expectation for the school had been eight points.

The improvement was especially noteworthy considering the school missed its growth target by two points in 2006-07.

"We are very proud of Montclair High School for meeting all API and (Adequate Yearly Progress) targets and posting a 45-point growth," said Jeffrey Ellingsen, director of assessment and research at Chaffey Joint Union High School District.

"This doesn't happen by chance but rather only through the work of the teachers, students, administrators and the Montclair High School community who are focused on student achievement and the improvement of their programs," Ellingsen added.

After API and Adequate Yearly Progress, a report that breaks down how each ethnicity scored on the API, were implemented in 1999 to help raise the education bar, Montclair High was targeted as a low- ranking school.

In 2002, the school was placed on program improvement.

In 2004, Montclair High was removed from the program with the help of a $200,000 grant, which allowed it to invest in additional tutoring and support groups to help reach state standards.

The grant gave the school the ability to spend more time with the students and help them grow academically, said Judy Post, former principal and now assistant superintendent of instruction at CJUHSD.

"Kids could study all they want, but so many of them needed that extra time and help, and this really allowed us to meet the needs of our students," Post said.

When it comes to education, Montclair High Principal Michael Hook said he is going to do "whatever it takes" to improve his students' API scores.

"Kids have to be motivated no matter what," Hook said. "Getting good grades is important, and it's important we make a big deal out of it."

To celebrate the 45-point API improvement, the school on Friday had a "Big Stick For The Big Score Day." Students received Big Stick Popsicles.

"Last year, I painted my hair blue, and I don't mind, and I'll tell them 'I'll act silly just as long as you take this test seriously,"' Hook said. "Montclair High students will perform when they know a teacher cares for their success, if the teacher is just going through the motions, the kids see right through that."

All jokes and hair dye aside, Hook said the school's success is the result of after-school programs, tutoring and focus lessons.

The school has implemented the Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, a college-preparatory program that is designed for students who are economically disadvantaged and underachieving.

The tutoring and monitoring helps students who are on the border between trying to figure out what to do in the future and for students who need that extra push when it comes to education, said Tina Barhorst, Montclair High's AVID coordinator.

"This is a place where they can come and ask questions to me, the tutors or their peers and feel comfortable," she said.

The packed classrooms have students utilizing every inch of space, including any dry board in sight and even writing on the windows.

With prepared questions, the students are broken into groups, each group with a tutor.

Fatima Lopez, AVID tutor and former AVID student at Montclair High, said she is constantly raising the bar with students who approach her.

"I want them to start that college-level thinking now, so that when they take state tests they're able to tackle the questions asked," she said. "It's all about student achievement and giving them the motivation they need."

Montclair's 45-point growth is not the highest that the district has seen.

In 2003, Alta Loma High School had a 45-point growth, Chaffey High School had a 73-point growth, Etiwanda High School had a 45- point growth and Montclair High had a 46-point growth.

Chaffey had another 46-point growth in 2005.

"We are equally pleased with our other schools that showed growth and would also like to point out that Ontario High School exited program improvement this year," Ellingsen said. "The Chaffey Joint Union High School District continues to achieve at rates higher than both county and state average rates for high schools."

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