Most Schools Show Academic Growth

More than 93 percent of students in the Class of 2013 passed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) in the Long Beach Unified School District, and more than two-thirds of schools here met schoolwide targets for academic growth, according to preliminary data from the California Department of Education.

The data are considered preliminary because they do not yet include numbers from LBUSD’s year-round schools, which test on a later schedule, and they do not include CAHSEE data from a July administration of the exam.

“For the past 10 years, we’ve seen an overall trend of improved achievement in our local schools,” LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser said.  “Despite unprecedented statewide cuts to public education, the latest data show that we have preserved the bulk of the gains achieved during this decade, with some schools again posting dramatic gains.”

LBUSD high school students have benefitted in recent years from additional instruction after school, and in some cases on Saturdays, to help them master the skills that are measured by the CAHSEE.  About 95 percent of the Class of 2013 here passed the math portion of the exam, while about 95 percent passed the English portion, and 93 percent passed both.

Among LBUSD’s traditional-calendar schools, for which state Academic Performance Index data are complete, about 68 percent met the state’s overall target for schoolwide growth on the API.  About 45 percent of these schools also met state targets for all subgroups of students.

The API is a numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000.  The state’s ultimate target for schools on the index is 800, and about 37 percent of schools here met that target, with Birney and Monroe schools joining the list.  Monroe closed at the end of last school year due to budget cuts and declining enrollment. 
Some of the greatest API point gains in LBUSD included Franklin Middle School (45); Educational Partnership High School, which is an alternative education school (45); Nelson Academy, a middle school in Signal Hill (29), Beach High School, which is also an alternative education school (25), and Hamilton Middle School in North Long Beach (23).

LBUSD’s preliminary overall API is 783, down one point over the “base API” calculated by the state for LBUSD. The school district’s API remains roughly comparable to the statewide API of 789, despite Long Beach’s more challenging demographics.  About 70% of students here live in poverty, compared to 57.5% statewide.
The state’s recent release of student performance data also included federal Adequate Yearly Progress results.
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 current federal AYP system has lost meaning for many educators and parents because so many high achieving, nationally recognized schools are being labeled as failures under No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  For instance, some “failing” schools have been recognized by Newsweek and the Washington Post as some of the top schools in the nation.

Because of NCLB’s widely recognized weaknesses, the U.S. Dept. of Education has granted NCLB waivers to 39 states and the District of Columbia, freeing schools from certain NCLB rules.  In addition, eight school districts in the non-profit California Office to Reform Education (CORE) – a consortium that includes the Long Beach Unified School District – were granted such a waiver earlier this month.  So while the latest data continue to list some local schools as “Program Improvement” schools, the recent waiver approval means that those schools will no longer be compelled to notify parents about Program Improvement status, provide transportation to other schools, or provide private tutoring for students.  Instead, the funds that were used for those activities will go toward more effective academic help by certified staff of the school district.

“The latest AYP data confirm the logic of the recent waiver granted to our school district and others in the CORE consortium,” Steinhauser said.  “Our waiver allows us to use multiple measures to provide a more accurate account of school performance.  We’re replacing an unfair, punitive system with one that rewards improvement and provides real help to schools that need it.”

Under the waiver, NCLB measurements will be replaced by a School Quality Improvement System measuring multiple aspects of student success across academic, social-emotional, and school culture and climate domains that research has found to be significant indicators of college and career readiness.  Indicators will include student progress on Common Core-aligned assessments and factors such as the elimination of disproportionality in school discipline, chronic absenteeism, and non-cognitive factors such as grit or resilience.  School culture and climate will also be measured. Districts participating in the School Quality Improvement Plan will collect and share data on these indicators far beyond that necessary for federal accountability purposes so that they can learn from each other about what is working, and how to correct course when students or schools are falling behind.

View more information about the CORE waiver at coredistricts.org and at www.lbschools.net.  School by school data are available at the California Department of Education website.