Tuolumne and Calaveras county schools ranked at or above state average on the newly released Academic Performance Index, released yesterday.

The state's schools are ranked on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best according to students' API scores. The scores are derived from a series of state and national tests taken in the spring and released each fall.

The state Department of Education goes through those scores and ranks each school so parents can have a report card on their children's schools.

Tuolumne County's Belleview Elementary School scored a perfect 10 in the state ranking and a 9 when compared against similar-sized schools.

"I'm just pretty proud of the whole community," said Mike Raleigh, superintendent of Belleview Elementary School. "It really reflects the efforts of everyone."

Twain Harte Middle School scored a statewide rank of 9, and a top score of 10 among similar schools.

Each year, when the rankings come out, the state gives schools goals for improving their API scores.

"Our API score went up 70 points," said Mike Woicicki, principal of Twain Harte Middle School. "So we scored a 10 in similarly sized schools.

"In the past, we've scored a 1 or a 3. I'm truly pleased with the results."

Woicicki thinks the scores finally reflect the quality of the school because they are ranked among truly similar schools.

"We've sometimes been ranked against the elite schools in the state."

Ranked against the rest of the state, two-thirds of Tuolumne County schools are above average. One-third ranked better than the average of 5 for schools of comparable size.

However, more Calaveras schools struggled when ranked among similar-sized schools.

"We know we need to improve and we're addressing it," said Mark Twain Union Elementary School District Superintendent Rick Brewer, referring to the marks from the two schools in his district.

The Mark Twain school district has Copperopolis and Mark Twain Union elementary schools. Each school was ranked a 6 statewide and a 2 among similar schools.

In Calaveras County, only Bret Harte Union High School in Angels Camp and Albert Michelson Elementary School in Murphys ranked at or above average for similar-sized schools.

Michael Chimente, superintendent of the Vallecito Union School District, said the API rankings are not always telling of the progress students make while at school.

All the Vallecito district's schools Albert Michelson, Hazel Fischer Elementary School in Arnold and Avery Middle School all received 8s statewide. Among similar schools, they ranked 5, 3 and 4, respectively.

Chimente said tests should follow students year-by-year as they move through school.

"What I want to see and what parents want to see are gains each child makes each year," he said.

"These test scores are one indication of how well the school does."

Bret Harte Union High School in Angels Camp, though, ranked 9 statewide and 8 among similar schools.

"We're pleased," said Bret Harte Principal Catherine Sargent.

She said an emphasis on writing throughout the school's curriculum helped students.

"Everyone worked hard, the staff and the students. It's great."

California education officials, upon releasing the rankings, announced goals for schools' 2003 API test scores, completing a four-year plan to align the tests to the state's education standards.

As of yesterday's rankings, API scores a combination of state tests and the national exam are now based more on tests that measure students' knowledge of state standards for each grade, and less on a national standardized test.

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