Friday, 24 May 2024

Making the grade: Educators explain students' API results

On Tuesday, Lake County News looked at the Academic Performance Index and what it does, along with a rundown of local test scores. In this installment, a sampling of local superintendents share reactions to the latest test results.


LAKE COUNTY – With the release earlier this month of the Academic Performance Index, or API, local educators are reviewing how their schools performed and, for the most part, there's satisfaction about how local students tested.


The API is a weighted average of student test scores with a numeric range of between 200 and 1,000, according to Tim Gill, director of curriculum and instruction for the Lake County Office of Education.


The test subjects include English language arts, math, social studies and science, and school scores also include results of the state's high school exit exam, said Gill.


The state's target for schools is a score of 800 and above. Two Lake County schools, Riviera Elementary and Cobb Mountain Elementary, are in that target area.


Schools with ratings of less than 800 have specific yearly goals, and 11 local schools met both schoolwide and subgroup growth targets in the most recent testing.


With the test results being released, educators are assessing their test scores and how their schools performed. Lake County News spoke with three local superintendents to get their reactions to the testing news.


Konocti Unified School District


Konocti Unified School District's new superintendent, Bill MacDougall, said he's pleased with the overall performance of district schools, most of which found improvement.


The district has several schools in the 700 range, which is what the district was looking for, said MacDougall.


All of the schools this year showed a great deal of improvement, he said, adding that he's proud of both students and staff for their efforts to make that happen.


Lakeport Unified School District


Lakeport Unified School District Superintendent Erin Hagberg said she's also pleased with her district's overall performance because they are maintaining scores in the mid-700s.


“I was especially impressed with the growth in scores at both Terrace Middle School and Clear Lake High School,” she said, which improved by 25 and 20 points, respectively.


“As a district, we are concerned about the achievement gap in our Hispanic and Native American student populations and in our socioeconomic disadvantaged students,” she said. “Our teachers and administrators continue to focus on meeting the needs of those particular groups of students.”


Hagberg said she thinks schools should be held accountable for student achievement and the public has a right to know that information.


“It is unfortunate, however, that such an emphasis is placed on only one form of assessment,” she said. “In a successful learning environment, student progress is measured continually by the classroom teacher and monitored by the entire staff. By using a variety of assessments on a regular basis, a teacher can determine a child’s academic strengths and weaknesses and then modify the instruction accordingly.”

Besides state expectations, there are the expectations assigned by federal standards, such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).


“Because the NCLB proficiency bar is raised significantly each year, it is a struggle to increase student achievement at such an unrealistic rate,” she said.


As a result, she said classroom teachers have to focus more and more instructional time on the core subjects that are tested in Standardized Testing and Reporting.


Because there is a limited amount of time in the school day, Hagberg said less time can be spent on enrichment activities such as art and music in order to meet the standards.


“Creating well-rounded learners has become a tremendous challenge for our teachers due to the NCLB requirements,” she said.


Middletown Unified School District


Schools in the Middletown Unified School District have shown consistent strength in testing over the years.


This year, district Superintendent Korby Olson said what was noticeable for him was a sizable drop in Coyote Valley's score, from 818 to 792.


Scoring for small schools can be volatile, Olson explained. With a kind of measure like the API, the larger the sample size, the less likely there is to be an impact on score due to the performance of any particular group during a year.


He said the school is exploring what was the possible cause of that drop.


Just as interesting is Middletown High's score, which went down one from 719 to 718, but showed 30- and 40-point jumps for socially disadvantaged and Hispanic student subgroups, respectively. “Something went right there,” he said.


The school has always done fairly well on its exit exam results, he said. “It looked to me like we still have pretty strong scores there.”


The highest-scoring school on the API in the district and the county is Cobb Mountain Elementary, where Olson was principal for 10 years. The school's score for 2008 is 855, up from 847 the previous year.


Olson calls the school “a pretty special place” which began placing strong emphasis on state standards beginning in the 1990s. That, coupled with a stable staff, has helped the school succeed.


“Cobb has had the highest API in Lake County since we started measuring,” he said.


The school's score dipped last year but this year regained ground to its level two years ago.


Olson said Cobb Elementary takes a unique approach to education. “Everything is built around the idea that it's OK to be smart.”


That includes having numerous academic competitions which challenge young brains. In turn, the children strive hard to achieve in that welcoming culture.


Olson said there is value to the API measure. However, he said the problem is there are not enough measures of academic achievement, and that the API is a “slice of time” that only looks at performance at a given period. For a standardized test, that's the only way it can be done, Olson said.


He said the state's standards are so high that children who test in the basic category here might be in the proficient range in other states. He said the API system is a much more friendly growth model then federal standards.


Like Hagberg, he has concerns about federal standards, which are going up so dramatically that even schools considered high performing will soon be in the program improvement category.


From now until 2013, every school must advance its scores in the federal government's Adequate Yearly Progress – AYP – measure, he said.


Olson said he doesn't disagree with the goal of constant improvement. However, he's concerned that if high performing schools get lumped into performance improvement, it will water down the importance of improving scores for those schools that really need the help.


To see the testing results for your school and district, visit www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/ar/index.asp.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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