The state released Academic Performance Index (API) rankings today, based on STAR test results from last spring. It also released “growth targets” that schools are supposed to meet on tests students are taking now.
“Today signifies the beginning of a new reporting cycle of testing and reporting under the API, which gives us one measure of school’s academic performance,” said Tom Torlakson, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, in a news release. “This is the jumping-off point where, based on last year’s testing results, schools are given a number of points by which they must grow in order to satisfy the requirements of our state accountability system.”
The ratings also show how schools with similar demographics stack up against each other.
“This is constructive information that provides parents, schools, educators, and the general public valuable insight into how schools are performing when measured against others,” Torlakson said.
Here’s the state’s explanation of the scores:
“A school’s statewide rank is based on the school’s Base API and is calculated separately for three types of schools: elementary, middle, and high schools. Ranks are established by deciles. Each decile contains 10 percent of all schools of each type.
It is important to note that there will always be schools ranked 1 and schools ranked 10 because of the nature of the decile system. Ten percent of schools will always be in each decile.
The similar schools rank is similar to the statewide rank, except that each school is ranked relative to a group of 100 schools determined to be similar to the comparison school based on certain school, student, and teacher characteristics. The school’s similar schools rank is the decile where that school’s Base API falls compared with the Base APIs of the 100 other similar schools in the comparison group.
The release of the 2010 Base API denotes the beginning of the API reporting cycle. The Base API Report released today includes the Base API, growth targets, and school ranks. The Growth API Report, which will be released in early fall, includes the Growth API, growth achieved, and whether or not targets were met. It is the second of these two reports that determines whether a school met or exceeded its growth target and whether it may be identified for participation in state intervention programs designed to help a school improve its academic performance.
The Base API, including all new indicators and methodological changes, is merely the baseline against which to compare the next year’s Growth API. The Base API is calculated using the test results of the previous year, thus this is the 2010 Base API, and the Growth API is calculated using the test results of the current year, and it will be the 2011 Growth API.”
Contra Costa County schools ranged from 1 to 10, with all campuses in the Acalanes, Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda scoring in the top 10 percent.
Here are the highest and lowest-scoring Mt. Diablo district schools, including API score, statewide rank, similar schools rank and growth target. Schools with API scores of 800 or more are not required to increase their scores, since they have already met the statewide target for proficiency.
Bel Air: API 646, rank: 1, similar schools: 1, growth: 8
Meadow Homes: API 648, rank: 1, similar schools: 1, growth: 8
Shore Acres: API 659, rank: 1, similar schools: 1, growth: 7
Rio Vista: API 669, rank: 1, similar schools: 1, growth: 7
Walnut Acres: API 936, rank: 10, similar schools: 5
Valle Verde: API 930, rank: 10, similar schools: 4
Sequoia: API 921, rank: 10, similar schools: 5
Monte Gardens: API 918, rank: 10, similar schools: 7
Strandwood: API 917, rank: 10, similar schools: 7
Mt. Diablo: API 915, rank: 10, similar schools: 7
Oak Grove: API 642, rank: 1, similar schools: 1, growth: 8
Glenbrook: API 658, rank: 1, similar schools: 2, growth: 7
Foothill: API 900, rank: 10, similar schools: 3
Mt. Diablo: API 653, rank: 2, similar schools: 5, growth: 7
Ygnacio Valley: API 665, rank: 2, similar schools: 2, growth: 7
Northgate: API 865, rank: 10, similar schools: 4
The district includes six of the lowest-achieving schools in the state ranked 1, as well as eight campuses ranked 10 at the top.
Mt. Diablo received federal School Improvement Grants totaling more than $14 million over three years to “transform” Bel Air, Rio Vista and Shore Acres elementary schools, along with Glenbrook Middle School. But due to state budget cuts, the school board decided in February to close Glenbrook Middle School in Concord and forfeit about $1.2 million of its grant, which was providing teacher training, counseling, library services and other programs.
The district has implemented a districtwide focus on testing intended to help teachers pinpoint student weaknesses and strengths, then tailor their instruction to focus on areas for improvement.
I left messages with several administrators asking for comments regarding the rankings. Cindy Matteoni, principal of Sequoia Elementary, was the only one who responded.
She said the school’s “Academics Plus” program accepts students from throughout the district, but requires parents to place them on a waiting list at age 4.
I asked her to reveal her school’s “secret” of success.
“I think our secret is probably the secret of any school that is succecssful,” she said. “It’s really about the team.”
She said the school is lucky to have very engaged parents who support their kids both in and out of class. In addition, the staff supports students and the “academics plus” philosophy, she said.
“They’re committed to the rigor of what they do,” she said, adding that the school adheres to the same curriculum standards as all campuses in the district.
Yet, Matteoni acknowledged the school, which has an API score of 921, still has room for improvement. When compared to other schools with similar demographics, it was ranked 5.
“Across the district, we all could be doing a better job with our English language learners and students that have specific learning needs,” she said. “And on the flip side, we can always be looking at ways to better challenge kids as well, who are ready for more challenge.”
Although dwindling funding makes it more difficult to implement new programs to improve instruction, Matteoni said the Internet has a lot of good resources for students and educators. Also, schools in the College Park HS feeder pattern have begun sharing instructional strategies through occasional meetings, she said.
In addition, districtwide Curriculum Associates testing gives teachers “real time” information about their students’ progress and enables them to intervene before the school year ends, Matteoni added. If schools wait until they receive STAR test results in the fall, students have already moved onto another teacher, she said.
“Teachers can really tailor their instruction around the needs of their students that they have at that time,” she said. “So, I think it’s very valuable.”
What do you think the district should do to help low-performing schools improve?