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San Diego School Scores Highest Among Low-Income Schools On State Test

America's Finest Charter School students eat pizza at a 2013 party celebratin...

Photo by America's Finest Charter School

Above: America's Finest Charter School students eat pizza at a 2013 party celebrating their reading achievements.

A charter school in San Diego's Mid-City area is getting top honors for its performance on California's new Common Core-aligned standardized test.

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Nearly 80 percent of third-graders at America's Finest Charter School in Chollas View scored at or above standards on the language arts portion of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress.

The test matches new Common Core curriculum and officially rolled out last school year.

That puts America's Finest at No. 1 among California's low-income schools and well above San Diego Unified's 48 percent pass rate.

The students also performed better than more well-off third-graders throughout the district, who had a 69 percent pass rate.

Principal Jan Perry said it helps that the 4-year-old school, which started in City Heights, taught Common Core curriculum from the beginning. Teachers didn't have to transition from an earlier model. But she says the school's overall approach must also be working.

"You have to raise the bottom and also raise the ceiling at the same time," Perry said. "We're now going into our fifth year and I can really see the results, because the kids that scored so well were with us since kindergarten."

Most of the third-graders began their schooling at America's Finest and haven't been on another campus. Students in higher grade levels who started school elsewhere scored lower.

Perry said she trained teachers extensively on the new test and they, in turn, had students complete many practice writing tests.

America's Finest classes are capped at 23 students. It has about 300 students total.

Photo by Education Trust—West

Charts show the achievement gap between ethnic groups on California standardized tests.

The nonprofit Education Trust—West highlighted the school in its October analysis of test scores because it beat the odds.

"Large gaps exist between Black, Latino, low-income and English learner students and their White, Asian, and affluent peers," the report said. "While these gaps were apparent with the (California Standards Test), these more rigorous Common Core-aligned tests expose gaps even further."

Common Core and the CASPP are meant to place greater emphasis on critical thinking skills.

Statewide, 44 percent of students across grade levels met standards in language arts and 34 percent met standards in math.

Nestor Language Academy in the South Bay and the Preuss School at UC San Diego also scored within the top 10 among low-income schools in their grade level.

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