The Santee School District is the highest academically performing district in East County, based on recent data from the California Education Department.
It was close.
"We're usually neck to neck with Alpine. This year we're two points ahead of them," Santee School District Superintendent Patrick Shaw said.
The Santee School District as a whole scored 860 on the state's annual Academic Performance Index, based largely on student performance on state standardized testing. The district's score grew by 10 points from last year. Rio Seco Elementary posted the highest score, 886, and only two schools, Hill Creek Elementary and Sycamore Canyon Elementary, slipped from last year.
The statewide average API for all schools was 767.
West Hills and Santana high schools, which are in the Grossmont Union High School District, posted API scores of 785 and 782 respectively. The average score in the sprawling, diverse district was 735.
Meanwhile all nine schools in the Santee School District posted API scores above the state target score of 800.
"It's a combination of things," Shaw said about his district's success. "We have quality teaching. There's a strong focus on student growth," he said.
Santee's kindergarten-through-eighth-grade schools also operate on a trimester schedule rather than the traditional two-semester approach and, as a result, test their students more often.
Santana High School had the largest point gains in the Grossmont district, up 20 points.
Reaching 800 is harder for high schools because the subjects they teach are more complex and more factors are considered.
"It's just been tougher for high schools to get to that level. But it's not impossible," Grossmont Union High School District Superintendent Ralf Swenson said.
Swenson pointed out the API does not measure the full high school learning experience.
"The API is based on the four core academic areas: math, English, social science, science. It doesn't measure foreign language or the arts or music or dance or athletics or career technical course," he said. "None of that shows up on the API, yet whole schools and their faculties are judged on that API. I just don't think it's fair," Swenson said.
"I would like to see a system that includes standardized core academic assessments but also some form of measurement to the value of those programs that high schools are also good at providing," he said
Santee schools API scores and the improvement, or backsliding, from last year:
High Schools API Change from 2009
Santee Elementary Schools
Cajon Park Elementary 860 0
Carlton Hills Elementary 878 20
Carlton Oaks Elementary 874 11
Chet F. Harritt Elementary 854 15
Hill Creek Elementary 830 -4
Pepper Drive Elementary 867 25
Prospect Avenue Elementary 805 2
Rio Seco Elementary 886 9
Sycamore Canyon Elementary 874 -23