Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2009 API Scores for San Leandro Schools

Based on the release of the 2009 STAR test results by the state, last month I predicted that the San Leandro Unified School District would fail to meet the proficiency standards set by the state under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) statute. As a result, the school district would be placed in the Program Improvement program.

Unfortunately, this has occurred. Yesterday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell released California's 2008-09 Accountability Progress Report (APR), which provides results from the state accountability system as well as under NCLB. Among the new school districts in California placed within Program Improvement is San Leandro. No district wishes to be labeled a Program Improvement district as the program consists of a series of escalating sanctions for each year the district remains within the program.

San Leandro will not be leaving the program, absent a repeal or substantial revision of NCLB. In time, almost every school district in California will be in the program. This is because NLCB requires districts to obtain the unattainable by 2014 - 100% proficiency for all students in multiple subjects.

What is extremely confusing concerning test scores in California is that we have two school accountability systems, the state system which uses the Academic Performance Index (API) and the federal NCLB system. The systems are different:
The state accountability system is an index model that measures improvement in student achievement from one year to the next. Under the API system, schools are given credit for improving the overall performance of their students. School growth targets are set based upon the starting point of the school and are re-set each year depending on the level of growth each school site shows. The federal . . . system is often referred to as a "status" model because it rewards schools for the percent of students the school has scoring at the proficient or above level on state assessments. No matter where a school began, all schools are expected to meet the same target at the same time.

Many elementary schools in San Leandro showed great progress in their 2009 API scores, led by James Madison Elementary school which hit a record for San Leandro - an 854 API score. However, the high school API score fell by 10 points and Bancroft Middle School, after sharp progress last year, also dropped. As a result, the district's API growth in 2009 was only 2 points. This matched Hayward for the lowest growth by a district in the county (and one district, Newark, declined).

After strong API growth in 2007, San Leandro's API growth has been tepid. The 2008 gain was only 1 point. San Leandro's two year API growth of 3 points is the lowest of all unified school districts in Alameda County.

API Growth in Points for School Years 2007-08 and 2008-09:

Alameda City --- 20
Albany -------- 21
Berkeley ------- 24
Castro Valley --- 17
Dublin -------- 24
Emery -------- 49
Fremont ------ 26
Hayward ------ 16
Livermore ----- 27
New Haven ---- 19
Newark ------- 8
Oakland ------ 36
Piedmont ----- 10
Pleasanton ---- 12
San Leandro --- 3
San Lorenzo --- 25

Since the first release of STAR test results in 1999, San Leandro has compared itself to neighboring district San Lorenzo, and always scored above San Lorenzo. With San Lorenzo's strong growth over the past two years that is no longer the case. For 2009, San Lorenzo's overall API score is 724 compared to 717 for San Leandro.

Six years ago, San Leandro's API Growth score was 684, and San Lorenzo's score was 677. Thus, while both districts have made progress, San Lorenzo has had sharper gains. San Leandro improved by 33 points; San Lorenzo saw a 47 point gain. Or viewed differently, since 2003, San Leandro has gone from an 7 point advantage to a 7 point deficit compared to San Lorenzo, a 14 point change.

How did San Lorenzo do this? Both districts have highly qualified teachers who teach the same state approved curriculum. The demographics of both districts are similar. Looking at the performance of students by ethnic and racial group one sees this is where San Lorenzo has outperformed San Leandro:

API Growth in Points from 2003 to 2009
----------------- San Leandro -- San Lorenzo
African American ----- 34 ---------- 59
Asian ---------------- 40 ---------- 74
Latino ---------------- 42 ---------- 57
White ---------------- 46 ---------- 41

In particular, the largest ethnic group by far in both districts, Latinos, test at a higher level in San Lorenzo (690 API for 2009) than in San Leandro (667 API for 2009). The overall scores of African American students in both districts are almost the same, 660 in San Lorenzo and 661 in San Leandro for 2009.

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