State Academic Index Shows Gains Here

About 80 percent of local schools met schoolwide Academic Performance Index targets set by the state, despite seven years of multi-billion-dollar cuts to public education in California.

Nearly three-fourths of schools in the Long Beach Unified School District showed growth on the API, an index closely monitored by educators, parents and realtors alike.

“These results are even more extraordinary considering that we’ve made huge cuts to our budget during seven of the last eight years, including more than $100 million in cuts during the past three years alone,” said Superintendent of Schools Christopher J. Steinhauser.

The latest state results, which do not include numbers for year-round schools due to scheduling differences, reinforce the fact that schools here continue to show steady gains, as reflected in STAR, or state test scores released last month.  LBUSD also now has a record number of schools in the 800 and 900 range on the API, with Longfellow jumping by 32 points to join six other schools in the 900s.  The ultimate target set by the state is 800 on a scale of 1,000.  New to the 800s this week are Burroughs, International, King, Muir and Riley, which brings the total to 25 schools in the 800 range (not including schools in the 900s).

Some schools saw dramatic gains, such as 48-point jump at Renaissance High School for the Arts.  Stephens Middle School and Buffum Elementary School saw gains of 39 points each.  Longfellow jumped 32 points, joining the 900 Club.

The state’s release of API scores also included the number of schools meeting federal Adequate Yearly Progress targets.  Fewer schools statewide and in Long Beach reached these targets because in 2010 the AYP targets for the percentage of students expected to score at the proficient level or above on state assessments increased about 11 percentage points across the board from 2009.

The state API and federal AYP results report progress in different ways. The state API is an index model that measures year-to-year improvement and provides incentives to educators to focus on students at all performance levels. Schools receive more API points for moving students up from the lowest-performance levels.  In contrast, the federal AYP system focuses solely on whether or not students are scoring at the proficient level or above on state assessments.

The AYP targets will continue to rise each year to meet the current federal requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind.  Only 26 percent of all middle schools statewide made AYP in 2010 while 40 percent of all elementary schools made AYP.  The most recent graduation rate data are not currently available.  As a result, a final AYP determination for schools with grade twelve students cannot be made.  The AYP reports for high schools will be updated in November after the graduation rate data become available.

The current federal AYP system has begun to lose meaning for many educators and parents because so many high achieving, nationally recognized schools are being labeled as failures under No Child Left Behind.  Among the list of schools labeled as failures nationwide, for instance, are National Blue Ribbon Schools, which have also been recognized by the federal government as models for the U.S.  Other “failing” schools have been recognized by Newsweek as being among the top 6 percent of schools in the nation.

The Obama Administration has indicated that it will seek to remedy some of the flaws of No Child Left Behind when Congress reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  Absent those fixes, it is widely recognized by educators that No Child Left Behind’s accountability model will implode, with most schools in the nation being labeled failures whether or not their students have made significant gains.