API and NCLB, all over again

Today was Test Score Day, which meant staring at numbers for hours — and, in my case, unwittingly informing a school principal that her award-winning school had fallen into Program Improvement.  (Not the worst news I’ve ever delivered, but still.)

Want to see the latest API scores? My colleague Danny Willis created an interactive database, and you can find my story on NCLB here. You might be surprised by some of the school districts that ended up in Program Improvement this time around.

Nearly a dozen more OUSD schools landed in Program Improvement, including Think College Now, Manzanita SEED, Montera Middle School and others that have won awards for closing the achievement gap.

No OUSD schools made it out this year, but we reported on a school in Hayward that did. Burbank Elementary School received a three-year, multi-million-dollar School Improvement Grant, beginning in 2010-11, and has been able to offer its students more ever since.

Below is the list of Oakland schools newly identified for Program Improvement, and you’ll find a link to the PI status of all schools in Alameda County here.


Bella Vista Elementary
Bridges Academy
Carl B. Munck Elementary
Futures Elementary
Greenleaf Elementary
Horace Mann Elementary
KIPP Bridge Charter School
Manzanita SEED
Monarch Academy (Aspire charter)
Montera Middle
New Highland Academy
Sankofa Academy
Think College Now

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nontcair

    From KM’s NCLB story:

    Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley, said he considered the failure counts to be “next to meaningless”

    SacBee reports that UCB employs a Director named “Bruce C. Fuller” who makes ~$165K.

  • Nontcair

    [Pleasonton Unified] Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi noted that [low-income and disabled students] made significant progress this year.

    A quick web search reveals that Ahmadi makes >= $220K.

    Of course we know that public education is for the children.

  • J.R.

    As was predicted years ago when the ridiculous NCLB began, eventually even high performing districts would fall into PI. When your scores are very high there is very little room for improvement. Now everyone can see what a sham and pipe dream this NCLB has become. High standards are good, but this over reliance on testing with no allowance for variables is pathetic.

  • Observer


    You’ll never get those salaries down. The view is the public sector is competing with the private sector. Of course, you would domaway with the public sector all together but thatnis moot.

    What needs to happen is public school employees must sign a contract that they will enroll their own children in the district where they work. Period. You’ll see the schools improve dramatically.

    You will not see hide nor hair of Tony Smith in OUSD when his children are old enough for middle school.

  • Nextset

    There is reason to believe that NCLB was actually intended to publicly demonstrate the correctness of the conclusions of The Bell Curve that IQs are largely racially disparate. NCLB is the largest racially sorted dataset ever created. Obviously it’s supporters knew exactly what would happen when those numbers were collected and published.

    And now the SCOTUS is widely expected to give the death blow to AA.

    Not that I have a problem with any of this, it is what it is. Public policy should be made on truths not fantasies.

    The next four years of a Romney Administration are going to be very interesting.

  • Nontcair

    I’ve actually reviewed some of these grade school standardized tests. Some of the questions would challenge a *college* grad.

    I’m convinced the tests are administered for the political purpose of making the kids look bad.

    GOPs use the dismal results to argue for more tax dollars for education alternatives such as charter schools, vouchers, and so forth. DEMs use them to argue for more funds for traditional public schools.

    Once again we see the socialist DEMs battling with the socialist GOPs over tax dollars, with the taxpayers (and in this particular instance, the *kids*) stuck in the middle, getting blown to bits as collateral damage.

    This testing mania has got to STOP.

    We couldn’t really blame Tony Smith for pulling his kids; what is he waiting for? Indeed, it would be nice to have even *more* parents like that.

    I’d go so far as to say that public officials should be prohibited from sending their kids to public schools. Taxpayers do better when management has no personal financial interest in the institutions that they are supposedly overseeing.

    Naturally in the private sector the *opposite* always applies: shareholders do better when management has a financial stake in the prosperity of the firm.

  • Ethan Brady

    What happened to ACORN, Global Family and a few more without scores?

  • Turanga_Teach

    Am I the only one for whom this database isn’t searchable? I’d love it if someone could post the list of schools entering PI this year.

  • Katy Murphy

    Is the database still not working for you? It’s working on my computer. I’ve added the Program Improvement info on the blog post, along with a link, but here are the Oakland schools that went into PI this year — 11 district, two charter:

    Bella Vista Elementary
    Bridges Academy
    Carl B. Munck Elementary
    Futures Elementary
    Greenleaf Elementary
    Horace Mann Elementary
    KIPP Bridge Charter School
    Manzanita SEED
    Monarch Academy (Aspire charter)
    Montera Middle
    New Highland Academy
    Sankofa Academy
    Think College Now

  • Nontcair

    #4 wrote The view is the public sector is competing with the private sector.

    A view held by the political class which has *no* clue what the private sector is all about or else a complete contempt for it.

    The pay of a school superintendent seems to based on a whole bunch of factors which have *little* (or even negative) correlation with how well Johnny can read. “Soft” standards like:

    the Super’s graduate degree(s)
    whether the district’s LGBT/AA/etc policies are being enforced
    does he show proper (feigned!) deference to the Board
    can he make jargon-filled, cliche-ridden *political* speeches
    what his equally mediocre colleagues are getting paid

    In contrast, the CEO of a market-driven private firm gets paid based on objective standards of how well the firm actually *performs*.

    Regardless of who wins next month we can all look forward to Bush’s very interesting 4th term.

  • Observer

    I don’t have contempt for myself, no thank you. I stated that’s the view, the view of the public sector as to why they continue to over pay themselves. I see evidence to support and detract from that argument, but mostly realize it is a fruitless argument. Then other is the cost of living in the California, never mind that plenty of people “make it” here on far less and simply aren’t starving.

    Everything you said about our Supe I find accurate.

    The latter? Laughter, sheer laughter. CEO of failed or failing and bailed out corporations supplied themselves with larger ( and tax funded) bonuses in 2008, 2009 and 2010 than ever before (adjusted per capita and for inflation).

  • Ann Joseph

    Katy- Can you explain how Montera fell into PI when it only lost 3 points, while Hillcrest Elem lost 6 and they’re not in PI? Thanks in advance.

  • Nontcair

    I stated firms which are *market* driven. That automatically excludes bailout babies.

    Those large, bureaucratic, private corps (think K-Mart) are not nearly as market driven as the phenomenally successful firms we’ve heard about (think Wal*Mart), but at least they can’t force me to help compensate their executives.

  • OUSD Parent

    @12: Ann Joseph, I was wondering the same thing. Edna Brewer lost 3 points, just as Montera did. Montera was put on PI while Brewer was not. Both are middle schools. Similar demographics. Similar scores. Not sure what the criteria is for PI but I’m wondering why one school was put on a plan and not the other. And what about Claremont? I know last year was rough for the school but a loss of 41 points is significant. Is Claremont on a PI plan?

    What is the criteria for a school to be placed on Program Improvement?

  • Katy Murphy

    Most schools, depending on their student populations, have dozens of criteria that they must meet to make what’s known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under NCLB. They have to meet all of them to stay in the clear. That criteria mostly involves participation rates and the percentage of students of various groups showing proficiency in English and math.

    The bar is getting dramatically higher each year — 100 percent of all kids are supposed to be proficient by 2013-14, remember — which is what is making Program Improvement so hard to avoid. This year, the target was close to 80 percent (it differs slightly by elementary-middle-high).

    If schools miss just one of those targets, and don’t make enough progress to fall into the “Safe Harbor” (SH) category, they don’t make AYP. Miss AYP for two years in a row, and you’re in Program Improvement. That’s IF you receive Title I funds from the federal government, which Hillcrest doesn’t. Hillcrest did make AYP, though.

    Here’s the report for Montera, which hit 18 of its 25 criteria this year: http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/Acnt2012/2012APRSchAYPReport.aspx?cYear=2011-12%20&allcds=01-612596057079

    To see more detailed PI reports on various schools, as well as a more detailed description of Safe Harbor, go to this link and click on the school in question to get the full report: http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/Acnt2012/2012AYPDst.aspx?cYear=&allCds=0161259&cChoice=PI11a

  • OUSD Parent

    #15: Thanks, Katy. This information is really helpful. I can see why schools and educators don’t like NCLB. It must take a lot of resources to track all of this.

  • Nontcair

    #16 wrote: It must take a lot of resources to track all of this.

    Abolish the unconstitutional US Dept of Ed.

    I don’t know how many $100K+ OUSD employees are working full-time on NCLB-related functions, but I’m sure it’s a sizable number.

    Then taxpayers are left wondering: “Where does all the money go?”

    It wouldn’t matter that those OUSD administrators are being paid by trickle down from the USDoEd, ie a “funded” mandate.

    It makes little difference to taxpayers whether their money is wasted by Sacramento or Washington.

  • On The Fence

    To those wondering about Edna Brewer vs. Montera with regards to PI status, I believe that the list just speaks to those schools entering PI. My understanding is that the list of those who have been PI and remain PI is much larger. In fact, I thought part of the article was a discussion of just how difficult it is to get off PI.

    In the case of Edna Brewer, my recollection is that it had been failing to meet AYP in the past for only English language learners in English, and the total % of language learners in the school was rather modest at about 12% of student body at the time. Therefore, despite serving many students very well, and having scores nearly identical to Montera, it was PI when Montera was not. I am fairly certain it remains PI, and with the way in which the bar keeps getting higher, it will be difficult to get off th list.

    As an aside, both Edna Brewer and Montera do a really good job for a whole lot of students. These students go on to high school where tons of these graduates meet back up with their private school counterparts and can compete just fine. It has been eye opening. I just mention that because parents often disparage the public middle schools across the board.

    Katy, this was my very elementary understanding, about PI for these schools not about the graduates, but could you confirm if this is roughly correct? I don’t want to steer people wrong if that is not accurate.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2012/02/three-handy-pages-with-facts-about.html Sharon

    The intent of this law wasn’t to make the students look bad, but to undermine the public schools that receive federal funding by being able to officially assign them as failures, in order to induce privatization of those schools as quickly as possible.

    As far as the confusion w/Edna Brewer and Montera, people need to understand that the API has nothing to do with AYP/PI, although both are derived from state test scores and other school information.

    The Academic Program Index (API) predates NCLB. It is the accountability measure devised by the STATE of California and started in 1999. The “index” is a three-digit number derived by entering a number of results into an extremely complicated equation and doing the calculation. It’s supposed to show growth each year, and if not, the school would be subjected to mild consequences.

    Then in 2001, the FEDERAL government passed the NCLB law to create a national measure of accountability. It’s an ultimatum-type measure consisting of an annual pass/fail test called Annual Yearly Progress (AYP). Starting with the 2001-02 school year, schools were expected to meet increasingly higher targets, supposedly driving all “numerically significant” categories of students at each site into achieving “proficient” or higher test results 2014. Their failure to meet the targets for a series of years would result in being placed in a “Program Improvement” category where each year of sustained PI meant the school site would be subjected to an increasingly more extreme set of sanctions.

    NCLB was only good for five years, but 2007 came and went without it being officially reauthorized or discontinued. Our federal legislators have never dealt with it officially, so it just keeps plugging along as a grandfathered law that inflicts its yearly damage. This piece I wrote for the Trib in 2007 gives more information.

    The Piedmont City Unified school district also entered Program Improvement this year, its “Students with Disabilities” category failing to reach the 2012 math proficiency goal. But Piedmont doesn’t have enough poor kids to get federal money so it won’t be subjected to NCLB sanctions.

    Steven Weinberg is the person who knows this stuff in and out. Hopefully he’ll chime in.

  • Nontcair

    Some very rough estimates.

    USGovernmentspending.com shows that the USG is now covers about 40% of all K-12 public education spending in this country.

    USG <A HREF="http://febp.newamerica.net/background-analysis/no-child-left-behind-funding"<NCLB-related programs are currently running about $21B/yr. About 10% of all federal education spending.

    If OUSD’s school budget is about $500M/yr, the USG must be spending about $10M/yr must go towards NCLB-related activities.

    I conservatively estimate that at least half of that goes to pay the salaries/benefits of bureaucrats involved with the program.

    At $125K/bureaucrat, that works out to about 20 OUSD, NCLB full-timers

  • Katy Murphy

    Sharon is right to point out the distinction between the state and federal measures. It’s often confusing to schools, as they are often rewarded by one system and sanctioned by another.

    One point of clarification: Piedmont City Unified is not in Program Improvement. True, it did not make Adequate Yearly Progress this year, but since it did in 2011, it’s still OK. It takes two straight years of missing the targets to fall into PI, and two years of hitting them to get out.

    You’ll see “Not in PI” in the far right column corresponding to Piedmont:


  • Nontcair

    Sorry about that.

    My accounting skills are not bad.

    My typing skills stink.

  • Katy Murphy

    Yes, you’re right. The list I posted — in response to a reader request — was only for schools entering Program Improvement this year.

    Edna Brewer has been in PI for years, as have many, many other schools. The California Department of Education link I posted earlier shows the NCLB status of every school and district in OUSD and elsewhere in Alameda County. In the far right column, it’ll say whether a school/district is “Not in PI,” “Not Title I” (meaning it’s not subject to federal sanctions b/c it doesn’t receive Title I money), or “Year 1, 2,” etc.

    Basically: If the status has “Year” in front of it, it means a school is in PI. The year number is not as straightforward as it sounds, but in general, the higher the number, the longer the school has been in PI.

    Here’s the list again: http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/Acnt2012/2012AYPco.aspx?cYear=&cSelect=01,ALAMEDA&cChoice=AYP2012

  • OUSD Parent

    @23-Thanks for all of the info Katy. last question. What does it mean for a school placed on PI? Does it mean that it loses federal funds? What are the consequences of being on PI? Thanks.

  • Katy Murphy

    The potential consequences grow more serious as a school advances further into PI (esp. years 4 and 5), but here’s the CDE’s explanation for now: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ti/programimprov.asp

    I’m signing off, but others are welcome to weigh in on OUSD Parent’s question!

  • Ann Joseph

    Thank you Katy- this is really helpful.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2012/02/three-handy-pages-with-facts-about.html Sharon

    Oopsie! Thanks a million Katy, for double-checking on what I wrote about Piedmont Unified! I was rushing to get to the Met Live 9:55am broadcast and got sloppy, mixing up Piedmont’s failure to meet AYP targets this year with PI. Accuracy is very important to me!

  • Nontcair

    40% USG contribution
    10% NCLB
    $500M OUSD budget
    50% allocated to compensation
    $125K per bureaucrat

    works out to 80 full-timers.

    There are three types of people in this world: those who are good at math, and those who aren’t.

  • Jerry Heverly

    I looked at the site referenced by Katy in comment #25 but couldn’t locate the progression of consequences. Can someone point me to where this is? (how many years of PI before I get fired?)

  • Ex-Oakland staff

    Re:#4 and #6
    The comments about Tony Smith pulling his kids from OUSD are speculation. Do the correspondents have any factual evidence to back this up? If not, why post? It’s just noise.

  • Nontcair

    We should force the issue by sending Tony an invoice for $30,000.

  • Nontcair

    See #28.

    Hey, Dr. Smith!

    Tell us how many NCLB FTEs are werkin fer’ya.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2012/02/three-handy-pages-with-facts-about.html Sharon

    Jerry Heverly: The Program Improvement-Year 4 is a critical year because that year the school must begin to develop its new management plan = restructuring. The restructuring plan is to be implemented the following year. These are the permitted types of restructuring under NCLB: close the school and reopen it as a charter school; replace all or most of the staff, including the principal; contract with an outside entity for management; permit a state takeover; or undergo any other major restructuring. My daughters’ schools chose the last option

    Here’s the PI timeline:

    This page has more info. For details about what happens during the later phase of PI, take a look at “PI Years 4 & 5: Restructuring/Alternative Governance” (DOC).

    Kudos to you for being a teacher who is trying to find out about the specifics. I have a strong hunch that you are the minority and also suspect that there are plenty of administrators who don’t fully grasp this law. I also think that no one really bothers to explain to parents how the massive changes being implemented at their children’s schools are directly because of the continuous implementation of an outdated law which is widely acknowledged to be a massive failure.

  • Calimama

    So does that mean that all those middle schools, which are in Year 5 of PI are looking at closing or restructuring? What about Claremont which now has two new principals? Will these principals be given a chance for improvement, or are they stuck with the same consequences as all the other Year 5 PI schools?

    Honestly, I’m not sure PI means much, looking at the status of schools in Berkeley that are sought after. Many of them are in PI as well, including Willard.

  • Jerry Heverly

    I talked with a colleague at Skyline and he pooh poohed the whole thing saying they were in the 8th year of PI. I’m not sure I heard him right. There must be schools in the area in year 5 or 6 but I haven’t read of any draconian changes. Am I missing something?

  • OUSD Parent

    Jerry, your friend has a point. I looked through the link Katy posted and most schools in OUSD are on PI. I had no idea. Nothing seems to change year after year.

  • Gail

    Most schools EVERYWHERE are or soon will be in PI. Unless you live in Lake Woebegone, where all the children are above average, that’s inevitable under NCLB.

  • Gordon Danning

    Oakland High School had to go through some sort of PI-related restructuring. Frankly, the changes were pretty minimal, focusing primarily on 9th grade, which is nice, but hardly earth-shattering. It seems that, ultimately, the law has no teeth. It is much ado about (almost) nothing.

  • Nontcair

    You folks take this API stuff soooooo seriously.

    This whole NCLB (“No Bureaucrat Left Behind”) business is all just another example of Washington keeping the People preoccupied with pedantry so that it can operate basically with impunity on its real purpose of robbing us blind.

    It’s funny how many of you college educated types fall for it.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Jerry Heverly, I’ve enjoyed reading your postings on your “Entirely Secondary” blog. I can see that you are a dedicated teacher and serious about the implications of various programs on your students, so I will answer your questions in some detail.
    The teachers who have reported that being in Program Improvement meant very little to them at their sites are right, but you are also correct that there must be more to it than that.
    The school I worked at from 2000-2009 was one of the first middle schools to go into Program Improvement. We went into Program Improvement 5 (where the state stops counting) so long ago I am not sure what year it was. We went through all the elements of PI that are listed in the link that Sharon provided. Some were a waste of time and money, some were only bureaucratic paperwork, and some made it harder to provide the education our students needed. None were earth-shaking, and many of the teachers who worked at the school during this time period would not have known which things that were taking place were part of Program Improvement and which were just the normal nonsense that the downtown administration requires.
    Your school is in Year One of Program Improvement. The district is now required to send a letter to parents at your school telling them they can transfer to any school in your district that is not in PI and that has space available. Are there any such schools in your district? In Oakland some of the schools that were listed in the letter had worse scores than our school, but they were not in PI because they were newly created. I don’t think a single family took advantage of this “opportunity.”
    Your district will offer you technical assistance. Perhaps they will pay an outside consultant to do this. The assistance will not be helpful. It will consist of checking off a list of practices that the California State Department of Education thought might be useful. In the years we went through the process the biggest element was “teaching the standards,” “using approved texts,” and “having a pacing guide.”
    Next year you will be in Year Two. ( There is no way that you can escape PI because the requirements become so much more demanding each year.) Now some of your students will sign up for Supplemental Educational Services. A portion of your Title One money will be taken by the district to pay the providers of these tutoring services. These will be private companies that are on a state approved list. They will use various methods to recruit students and their families and collect about $1000 per student for about 40 hours of group tutoring. Every study I have seen indicates that this tutoring does no good at all, except to allow these private companies to get a paycheck. In the early years of these programs the providers offered all sorts of prizes and rewards to get students and their parents to sign up, or they tried to get teachers to work for them and recruit their own students.
    In Year Three, someone will decide which of the choices under the law your school will select for Years Four and Five. It will probably be “restructuring.” The other major option, replacing the staff, is never selected unless a sizeable bribe is offered the district in the form of an increase in federal support. This program is limited to the 5% of the schools in the state that score lowest on standardized tests. San Leandro High is between the 20th and 30th percentile, so far above that cut-off point. There are several schools in Oakland and San Francisco who reconstituted their staffs and received the added funds, and the jury is still out on whether or not they make significant improvement and whether the improvement continues after the funding ceases.
    During Year Three, someone will seize control of your “restructuring.” It could be an administrator at your site. It could be an administrator in your district, or it could be a consultant hired by the site or district. This plan will be carried out in Years 4 and 5, so it is important, but unless your school simultaneously qualifies for additional funding, and new plan is unlikely to have much effect on student outcomes.
    You asked “How many years of PI before I am fired?” You won’t be. Indeed, PI status is not even a minor blot on a teacher’s reputation. Most people realized long ago that student tests scores are a much greater indicator of the social-economic level of the students than they are of the competence of a school or teacher. Notice that the Alameda Teacher of the Year works at a school that is PI 5+++.

  • makeitgoaway

    The Alameda Teacher of the Year, Chris Hansen, who was also named County Teacher of the Year, does NOT work at a school in PI. He works at Lincoln Middle School. The previous Year’s TOY works at a continuation high school, so it is somewhat disingenuous to suggest that they are in PI. And what would that prove anyway?

    I assume your point is that teachers at struggling schools are often the most innovative because they have to be. But it is much more likely as you listed in your post, that they are weighed down and overcome by rules and regulations, silly and repetitive suggestions by consultants, and constantly changing adminstrators, thus frustrating and finally forcing them into being mindless Ed robots. Innovation is one of the hardest things to do in education. The nail that stands up gets hammered.

  • Steven Weinberg

    #41, the Alameda County Teacher of the Year for 2012, as reported on this website, is I’Asha Warfield from Frick Middle School in Oakland. I try very hard to never be disingenuous.
    My reason for bringing it up was exactly what I said in my post, to reassure another teacher that working at a PI school no longer reflects negatively on a teacher. There was a time when schools in PI were barred from winning state and federal awards that they would have otherwise qualified for, so that might have been a real concern.

  • Katy Murphy

    I think I know the source of confusion: There are always two Alameda County Teachers of the Year!

  • Jerry Heverly

    Fascinating, Mr. Weinberg. My only confusion is that I thought San Leandro HS was in at least the third year of PI, but I could be wrong.

  • Steven Weinberg

    I looked again at the state website, and I believe I was reading it incorrectly. The words “first year PI implementation” are followed by a colon. They do not mean that the school is in the first year of PI. If the school was in PI it would have a date after the colon. Apparently San Leandro High is not considered a Title One school, so it will not enter Program Improvement regardless of its test scores.
    San Leandro High has failed to meet its AYP for several years, so it would be in PI if it were a Title One school. A Title One school enters PI if it fails to meet any of its AYP targets for two years in a row.
    I hope this is helpful to you. I learned something researching it.