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Thursday, September 01, 2005 | Many schools in San Diego County scored well on the state’s Academic Performance Index but failed to meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards, according to the 2005 Accountability Progress Report released Wednesday by the California Department of Education.

About 81 percent of San Diego County schools met their API growth targets, according to Terry Decker, director of data analysis, research and evaluation services at the San Diego County Office of Education. But only 58 percent hit their target numbers for the AYP, according to the progress report data.

He said the API number is a “good strong indicator” of success by the schools but he also pointed out that some of the schools that achieved high API scores didn’t do well enough on the AYP, which is required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

“That can be confusing for parents,” Decker said.

About 83 percent of California’s schools posted increases in their API scores, compared to 64 percent last year, whereas 56 percent of schools met their AYP targets, down from 65 percent last year, according to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell.

O’Connell expressed frustration Wednesday at the apparent contradiction in results, saying that many of California’s public schools are making great strides in increasing their API scores but are not meeting federal standards as defined by AYP guidelines.

He said he would like parents, students and educators to focus on the API growth, which he said was more like the long-jump, rather than high-jumping over a bar set by AYP.

“The [state’s] growth model is a much more accurate indicator,” O’Connell said. “The API is much easier to understand.” He said the state is petitioning the federal government to use the API model instead of the AYP. “We want more flexibility in NCLB,” he said.

San Diego school administrators were not surprised by the AYP results.

“The targets went up this year, so we expected that fewer schools would meet their targets,” said Karen Bachofer, San Diego City Schools’ executive director for standards, assessment and accountability.

Bachofer said the inconsistency stems from a state system that is built on a “growth model,” which gives schools targets and rewards for improvements. So students who advance from, for example, the “far below basic” testing category up to “below basic” or “basic” are improving. “You get ‘credit’ for doing that,” she said. This annual progress is applauded by the state and reflected by higher API numbers for schools. Schools are showing that they are moving in the right direction, she explained.

But the federal AYP system requires that a certain percentage of students must achieve the top two testing categories – proficient or advanced. So a school might fail to make AYP while showing great improvement in test scores and API numbers, because not enough of the student body is yet performing at the top levels even though there is overall improvement.

Local results

The 2005 Growth API numbers just released are based primarily on the results of last spring’s battery of Standardized Testing and Reporting tests given to all public school students in second through 11th grades. The STAR results for schools and districts were released by the CDE in mid-August and are applicable for the 2004-2005 school year. STAR tests how well students have learned state standards by grade and by subject.

To determine the Growth API, the state uses a complicated formula that consists primarily of the STAR results, plus the California High School Exit Exam, and other minor variables. The target API number is 800, and the range is from a low of 200 up to 1,000.

The 2005 Growth API numbers are being compared to the 2004 Base API scores released last March. The 2005 Growth API number is calculated from 2005 STAR tests, and the 2004 Base API is calculated from 2004 STAR tests. “It’s always a match between the base and the growth,” Bachofer said.

“The Base API represents a starting point, and the Growth API represents an ending,” said Margie Bulkin, director of curriculum and assessment for the San Dieguito Union High School District. “This number is how much did you grow from your base.”

“The Base API number sets the foundation,” said Janet Bernard, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the Del Mar Union School District.

San Diego City Schools recorded a 2005 Growth API number of 726, a gain of 16 points over its 2004 Base API of 710. However, the district failed to make AYP, falling short on the percentage of students districtwide that was required to show proficiency in language arts and math. That required proficiency number ranges from 22 to 26.5 percent, depending upon the grade.

SDCS also failed to meet the required high school graduation rate of 82.9 percent, recording a rate of 80.7 percent, down 2.5 percent from last year, Bachofer said.

Despite not meeting AYP, Growth API scores just released for SDCS indicate several elementary schools scoring above 900, including Bird Rock (948), Curie (910), Robert E. Dingeman (930), Explorer Charter (925), Hearst (904), Jerabek (928), La Jolla (902), Scripps (924) and Torrey Pines (902). All schools recorded significant improvement from the preceding year, with a gain of 45 points for Explorer, Hearst and Torrey Pines.

Seven SDCS middle schools out of 25 scored above 800, the highest being Thurgood Marshall (888), High Tech Middle Charter (865) and Muirlands (860).

Three SDCS high schools scored 800 or higher: Preuss Charter at 861, La Jolla at 835 and Scripps Ranch at 800.

Other parts of the county

Other top-scoring high schools include Canyon Crest Academy (842) in the San Dieguito Union High School District, Coronado (838), Rancho Bernardo High (832) in Poway, Poway High (829) and San Dieguito’s Torrey Pines (821).

Del Mar, Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe once again retained their top spots for elementary school districts, recording some of the highest scores in both the county and the state. At 963, Del Mar’s Sage Canyon recorded the highest score in the county, with Torrey Hills (950) and Ashley Falls (943) close behind. Solana Beach’s Solana Highlands, Carmel Creek and Solana Pacific recorded APIs of 947, 946 and 945, respectively. Rancho Santa Fe Elementary School came in at 942.

The Growth API for the Grossmont Union High School District, with its 11 high schools, stayed the same as last year’s, at 671. All schools rated an API in the high 600s to low 700s. The district did not make AYP, although its graduation rate met the requirement.

The Sweetwater Union High School District scored an API of 667, 28 points higher than its previous 639, and met AYP. Only one middle school in the district, out of 11 middle schools and 15 high schools, saw a decline in its API over last year’s numbers. Graduation rates were met.

Chula Vista Elementary scored 745 on its API, up from last year’s 722. The district, with its 42 elementary schools, also made AYP.

Poway Unified School District also made AYP and scored an API of 849, up 14 points over the 2004 score. Graduation rates were met.

Atypical schools

Mountain View, said principal Craig Champion, offers an independent study option for students whose parents primarily home-school their children and provide instruction under the supervision of two credentialed teachers on site. “This is a viable educational option” under the California education code, he said, emphasizing that Mountain View is not a private school. “We are one of seven public schools in the Alpine district.”

Champion attributed the school’s success to the leadership of the superintendent and the district’s commitment to the state’s content standards. He said teachers identify essential components of the state standards and focus on weak areas. Parents, he said, sign an independent study contract and teachers meet with the parents every two weeks to review homework and lessons. The school has about 45 students in kindergarten through eighth grades.

Subgroup data

SDCS’s Bachofer said she doesn’t rely too heavily on the API numbers just released, “because it’s not finalized.” The API numbers tell the participation rates and the performance data for the schools overall, and graduation rates where appropriate. But each school has to make progress with its subgroups, such as its Hispanic and African-American student populations. Urban schools with larger numbers of students in subgroups are less likely to meet the goals, she said.

Decker of SDCOE said parents of a numerically significant subgroup may be more interested in the reports to be released by the state in October.

The API scores are the cornerstone of the accountability system established in 1999 in California under the Public Schools Accountability Act.

The API is the heart of the state’s accountability program, which includes the STAR program (which consists of a number of tests that gauge each student’s mastery of state standards) and the exit exam.

In 2003, California’s state board of education identified the API as one of the indicators for measuring AYP, part of the federal program. AYP, Bulkin said, has four components: the API number, participation rates, the percent of students scoring at the proficient or advanced levels, and the graduation rates (as appropriate to each district).

Bulkin and Bachofer said the API must be 590 now, up from 560 for the past few years. The participation rates – the number of students taking the STAR tests – must be at least 95 percent in each subject, the proficiency rates must be 22 to 26.5 percent depending upon the grade, and graduation rates must be 82.9 percent.

This year, Bulkin’s San Dieguito district recorded an API of 834, a 99 percent participation rate, 80 percent proficient or advanced in language arts and 75 percent proficient or advanced in math, and a graduation rate of 99.3 percent.

The proficiency rates are the most interesting measurement to examine, Bulkin said, because the federal government expects all students – 100 percent – to be proficient or advanced by 2014.

“In theory, that’s possible,” Bachofer said. “I believe wholeheartedly it’s possible given the optimal environment” of adequate resources, staffing and professional development. “This is a standards-based system, and the assessment is aligned with state standards. So they should be able to be above standards.”

Bachofer acknowledged that it is a huge hurdle, but she expressed optimism. “Right now we don’t have any groups not making progress,” she said.

Please contact Marsha Sutton directly at

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