Mammoth Elementary celebrates big jump in test scores

‘It’s been a long time coming.”

That’s what Mammoth Elementary School Principal Roseanne Lampariello said after learning that her school had jumped 32 points in their state test scores last year.

For anyone in academics, 32 points in one year is a lot. In addition, the 32 points brought the scores past the magical 800 Academic Performance Index number used to determine whether meeting state educational standards — or not.

Schools that don’t reach the 800 API number get the state watching over them like a big brother. With that state attention comes a negative stigma that haunts the school, pushing prospective students and their parents away, and making it harder to attract good teachers.

So climbing out of this “program improvement” status is a big deal for any school, Mammoth Elementary included.

It’s perhaps made more impressive because last year was Lampariello’s first year at Mammoth Elementary. Her school is the one in the district with the most English Language Learners, percentage wise; some 54 percent of the elementary school does not speak English as their primary language, adding another challenge. Add to that that she took over the troubled elementary school’s top administrative position following several years where principal after principal left or was asked to leave after a short time, adding another, unusual challenge.

But all that aside, she’s not one to toot her own horn.

“The teachers have worked and worked and worked for years for this,” she said Thursday. “This is the time when all that work is finally showing up in test scores. Sometimes it takes a while.

“Parents showed up to volunteer,” she said. “I’m not just talking about printing papers, I’m talking about staying in the classroom, under the teacher’s direction, helping out, often on a long term basis. And the students worked so hard, too.”

But Mammoth Unified School District Superintendent Rich Boccia wasn’t nearly so reticent.

“I commend Principal Lampariello for her laser-like focus on instruction and her ability to engage her teachers in conversations about the work of teaching and learning,” he said. “Principal Lampariello is an inspirational leader.”

The 32-point improvement was the biggest growth since 2004, he noted.

Monday night, when some 250 of her students showed up for an awards celebration at the school, parents and students and teachers and Lampariello had arguably earned the right to feel just a bit giddy.

They aren’t out of the woods yet, though. It takes another year of staying steady or improving to gain what Lampariello calls “safe harbor” and be determined by the state to have made “significant improvement.”

The renewed effort, spurred by Lampariello, to get teachers to collaborate together regarding the progress of each student, and an equal emphasis on actually giving the teachers time to do so, will continue, she said.

A new assessment program designed to track each student’s progress digitally every 10 weeks has also made teaching more effective, allowing teachers to break students out into small groups where their weaknesses and strengths get individual attention.