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State Schools Chief Jack O’Connell Releases 2008 Base API Report, Includes Statewide and Similar Schools Comparisons

June 18th, 2009 by Temple City Tribune

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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell today released the 2008 Base Academic Performance Index (API) report, marking the beginning of California’s annual reporting cycle of academic growth and achievement.

The 2008 Base API Report summarizes results from the spring 2008 testing season and becomes the baseline against which to compare the 2009 Growth API, which will be released in early September.

The 2008 Base API report includes public school rankings that enable parents to match the performance of their child’s school with other California public schools. Based on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), the rankings compare an individual school to all other California public schools of similar type (elementary, middle, and high) as well as to those with similar educational opportunities and challenges.

The 2008 Base API Report also provides information about the percentage of schools at or above the statewide API performance target of 800: The percentage of elementary schools at or above this mark is 39.9 percent, up 3.3 percentage points from 2007; middle schools is 30.1 percent, up 5.7 percentage points; and high schools is 17.1 percent, up 2.8 percentage points. (See Table A.)

“I am pleased that once again California schools are meeting the high expectations set for them every year. I am especially proud of the spectacular progress made by our elementary schools since the inception of the API. This is momentum we need to sustain and celebrate,” O’Connell said.

“This kind of progress happens only through the hard work and focus of dedicated school staff, parents, and students. However, I worry that these real gains in student achievement are in serious jeopardy because funding for our public school system is in serious danger,” he said. “What kind of education will we be able to offer next year and the year after that with the kind of drastic and unprecedented cuts now under consideration?”

The annual rise in test scores over the last 10 years also has resulted in a similar rise in the API score associated with each rank. For example: In 1999, an elementary school with an API score of 680 had a statewide rank of 7. Today that same API score yields a statewide rank of 1. (See Table B.)

The Base API Report also sets 2009 API growth targets for schools and student subgroups. The 2009 Growth API will be compared to the 2008 Base API in order to determine whether or not the schools and student subgroups met these targets. The 2009 Growth API is projected for release on September 2, 2009.

Finally, the report documents the achievement gap that continues to exist between white and Asian student subgroups on the one hand and Hispanic and African American student subgroups on the other hand. (See Table C.)

“For the better part of the last two years, I have focused intently on a plan to close this gap and to lower the number of young people dropping out of school,” O’Connell said. “The Base API report provides evidence yet again of why it is so critical that we focus on this challenge. We have implemented important reforms related to high-quality preschool, cultural and climatic dynamics in the classroom, and education data collection. We have a moral and economic imperative to prepare all students with an education that will help them succeed. But this critical work is also likely to be stymied if the massive budget cuts to our schools become a reality.”

The 2008 Base API represents the annual calibration of the state’s accountability system to accommodate new assessments or other changes. This enables the comparison of results from one year to the next to measure school improvement. For example, in 2009 the State did not administer the norm-referenced assessment (the California Achievement Test/Sixth Edition [CAT/6]) to students. This assessment was eliminated in the state budget. Therefore, the 2008 Base API does not include 2008 CAT/6 results.

The API reflects a school’s composite academic achievement based on a variety of statewide assessments. The API incorporates test results from the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program and the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE). Subject areas include English-language arts, mathematics, science, and history-social science.

The 2008 Base API reports, including school rankings and growth targets are posted on the API Web Page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/api/ .

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