The California Department of Education (CDE), led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, released California’s 2009-10 Accountability Progress Report (APR), Monday and the scores demonstrate some progress but not enough.

The APR provides results from the state accountability system, the Academic Performance Index (API), and federal accountability system, which consists of the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and Program Improvement, (PI) status.

API and AYP consist of results from the statewide Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program and from the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE).

The state API is an index model that measures year-to-year improvement and motivates educators to focus on students at all performance levels. API ranges from 200 to 1000, with a statewide target of 800. All numerically significant subgroups at a school must meet their growth targets in order for a school to meet its API growth target. A numerically significant subgroup is 50 or 100 students that make up at least 15 percent of the school’s population. These subgroups include race and ethnicity subgroups, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, English learners, and students with disabilities.

“When we set the target goal of 800 on the API 10 years ago, it was ambitious and it challenged most California schools that had never been held accountable for improving academic achievement,” O’Connell said. “Now that nearly half of our schools are at or above this API target, it is time to have a serious conversation about raising the target goal. California schools are made great by hardworking students, teachers, administrators, paraeducators, school board members, and parents. I know that they could meet this challenge by keeping up the momentum and helping even more students reach higher levels of success.”

The results show that 46 percent of all schools statewide have met the target. Compared to last year’s results, API scores increased by 4 percent. Based on the data, 51 percent of elementary schools, 40 percent of middle schools, and 25 percent of high schools are at or above the state target of 800. However, this means that more than half of the schools are not performing at the desired rate.

“For the eighth year in a row, California schools have made gains in academic achievement and narrowing the achievement gap,” O’Connell said. “While we cannot be satisfied until the achievement gap is eliminated and all students are well-prepared for college and careers, this significant progress should be celebrated.”

According to the newly released results of the 2010 Growth API, African Americans, Hispanics, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged students are still not doing as well as the White or Asian pupils. However, they have improved by 15 to 17 points while all students improved by 13 points.
But what is of concern, is that statewide African Americans are doing poorly compared to all other subgroups including English Learners and the socioeconomically disadvantaged.

The federal AYP system focuses on whether or not students are scoring at the proficient level or above on state assessments. Every local educational agency (LEA), school, and subgroup in California is expected to achieve a 95 percent participation rate on English language arts (ELA) and mathematics state assessments used to calculate AYP each year.

The results show that fewer elementary and middle schools made AYP this year when compared to last year. However, this may because the target was increased by 10 percentage points and will continue to increase annually by 11 points. The 2010 data shows that 40 percent of elementary schools and 26 percent of middle schools made AYP compared to 61 percent of elementary schools and 27 percent of middle schools making AYP last year. High school percentages are not available and won’t be made available until November because the graduation data has not yet been determined and must be included in the calculations.

The data also shows that 30 percent of Title 1 elementary schools and 19 percent of Title 1 middle schools made AYP this year. Title 1 is a program that provides financial assistance to LEA’s and schools with high numbers of economically disadvantaged children. The funds are designed to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.

Title 1 schools, school districts and county offices of education who fail to meet their AYP criteria for two consecutive years are identified for PI (program improvement).

PI schools are placed on a five-year timeline. According to the PI requirements, schools in Year 1 of PI must offer students an option to attend a non-PI school with paid transportation, and schools in Year 2 of PI must also offer supplemental education services (SES), such as tutoring to eligible students.

Out of the 6,142 schools receiving Title 1 funds in 2009-1010, 52 percent or 3,197 of them are in PI for the 2010-2011 school year. In the 2010-2011 data, 567 schools are identified as first-time PI schools; 83 schools have exited PI status after making AYP for two consecutive years. Since the federal accountability bar will continue to rise, it’s possible that more schools will fall into PI.

However, the CDE provides assistance to these schools with data, self evaluation tools and other resources.