In 1999, the Legislature passed the Public School Accountability Act. Under it, each school and district in the state gets an Academic Performance Index or API score. These scores are issued twice yearly, once in the fall based on the just released CST (California Standards Tests) scores and later in the year with corrections and growth targets for each school for the current school year. API’s range from 200 to 1000 and are calculated from all of a school’s or district’s CST scores, the special tests for English Learners and learning disabled students and the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE).
The API is a growth model system meaning that a school or district is given a growth target each year and is said to have “made API” if its API grows by that target amount or greater.
The state’s goal is to have all schools achieve an API of 800. Once a school reaches the 800 level, it does not receive a growth target so long as it remains above 800. APIs are also calculated for each significant subgroup by ethnicity, language, economic status and special education. Schools are ranked and given number rankings from 1 – 10 (1 being low) based on the decile or percentage band in which they fall, and are also given 1 – 10 rankings against demographically similar schools. It should be noted that the similar schools rankings are based on the 100 most comparable schools according to reported student demographic data. The schools on the list may not always provide close comparisons.
Schools have another target under the No Child Left Behind Act known as Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP. There are three (four for high schools) requirements for a school or district to “make AYP”.
- Schools and districts must meet participation goals (95% participation on tests)
- A required percentage of a school or district’s students must meet the Advanced or Proficient levels on the ELA and Math CST’s. This percentage increases annually and will reach the impossible goal of 100% in 2014. Targets for 2009-10 are about 50% Advanced/Proficient.
- Schools and districts must meet their API growth target
- High schools must meet certain graduation rate targets.
No Child Left Behind requires that all four requirements be met by a school’s or district’s entire student body and by all of its significant subgroups (ethnicity, language status, disability, economic status, etc). The results for all students enrolling in a school before October 1 are counted toward a school’s eventual API or AYP score. Schools with a larger percentage of student mobility and students still learning English are usually impacted with lower scores.
Congress is expected to change the accountability portions of No Child Left Behind in 2011 as part of the reauthorization of the law. There’s every indication that the requirement that 100% of all students be proficient in English language arts and math by 2014 will be modified.
Title I schools (those receiving federal funds based on poverty guidelines) face increasing penalties if they fail to make AYP for two consecutive school years. Non-Title I schools receive no direct penalties if they fail their AYP goals.
Bob Nichols is the education manager of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.