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Statement: “The school Academic Performance Index jumped a record 52 points in 2010 to 754,” Cindy Marten, San Diego Unified School District incoming Superintendent wrote in a press release distributed at a school board meeting on Feb. 27.

Determination: Misleading

Analysis: At the San Diego Unified School board meeting announcing the appointment of Cindy Marten as the district’s new superintendent, news reporters were handed two pieces of paper.

One was a transcript of the statement board President John Lee Evans was about to read. The other was a press release detailing Marten’s bio and laying out a number of statistics about the academic growth at Marten’s school, Central Elementary in City Heights.

The release included the following statement:

The school Academic Performance Index jumped a record 52 points in 2010 to 754 and in 2012 the API reached 788, approaching the state target of 800.

We recently researched Central’s Academic Performance Index to gage the academic success of the school compared to other campuses with similar student demographics and socioeconomic challenges. Those numbers prompted us to circle back to the statement that Central saw a “record” increase in its API score in 2010.

In the last few years, several local schools have notched astoundingly high API increases — including ones larger than 52 points. In the 2008-09 school year, Garfield Elementary School in North Park increased its API score by 92 points. The same year that Central saw a 52-point increase, at least two other similar schools, Garfield and Cesar Chavez Elementary in Southcrest, recorded bigger API increases.

The 52-point increase isn’t even a record for Central. Between 1999 and 2000, the district increased API scores a whopping 125 points.

So, why the word “record?”

We called the district and learned the press release was written by Marten herself.

The incoming superintendent said she had erred.

“That statement is missing a qualifier that it was a record for my team at Central,” Marten said.

The 52-point gain was the highest under Marten’s leadership of the school, which is why she referred to it as a “record” increase.

We’re labeling this misleading because Marten didn’t include a vital qualifier to her statement. Without the further explanation that the statement referred to her tenure as principal, it’s fair to assume that a reasonable reader would think the press release was claiming a district-wide record increase, or at least a record for the school.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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