API suspended but not accountability mandates
(Calif.) With scores for the annual Academic Performance Index suspended for the next two years, school districts will still be required to meet accountability mandates set out in the Gov. Jerry Brown’s new Local Control Funding Formula.
Under a plan detailed Tuesday, districts will be allowed to use one of three options: last year’s API scores; an average of the last three years of scores; or a combination of several other scoring measures tied to the LCFF but still being refined.
“The state board did approve your recommendation to not to calculate an API for either elementary, middle or high schools this coming fall,” said Keric Ashley, director of accountability at the California Department of Education, during a meeting of the panel convened to make recommendations on restructuring the API.
“AB 484 did envision the possibility of not having an API and allows for the use of last year’s scores, so we will be rolling over last year’s scores and keeping them available for any purpose that’s needed, including for districts’ Local Control Accountability Plans,” he said, referring to legislation that ushered in state testing changes.
Up to now, the state’s API was used to measure student progress and to meet federal accountability requirements. Also until now, the API had been calculated using only student test scores – configured to give a school an overall score ranging between 200 and 1,000, with the state target being 800. Schools not meeting annual growth targets had been subject to programmatic changes and possible sanctions if they failed to improve.
But with the adoption and implementation of Common Core State Standards and new assessments aligned to those standards, lawmakers suspended calculation of the API until 2015-16 to give schools and students time to get up to speed.
Meanwhile, Brown’s LCFF gives local districts greater authority over spending decisions but also requires them to increase services to disadvantaged students and to compile Local Control Accountability Plans showing how their spending helps schools meet eight state priorities.
Among the state priorities are student outcomes, which districts may address by reporting, among other things, API scores, federal AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) scores, English Learner reclassification rates, Advanced Placement test passing rates or percentages of students who are considered college and career ready.
But even the advisory panel – known as the Public Schools Accountability Act Advisory Committee – is struggling to define college- and career-ready.
A new law this year restricts the API formula to no more than 60 percent test scores. Graduation rates must be incorporated as well as other “valid and reliable” data showing that students are prepared to enter either post-secondary study, the workforce or both.
The PSAA Committee, led by Ashley and the CDE, are working with a consultant to determine what other indicators, based on valid data, should be used and how they will be incorporated into the API formula.
On Tuesday, the consulting firm, EPIC, provided indepth exploration of potential indicators: Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate programs and ACT and SAT college-prep testing.
The committee is continuing to explore options and will hear another report from EPIC in June, possibly about dual or concurrent enrollment in which high school students take college courses while still in high school.
The challenge for the committee is narrowing down indicators for which all high schools can provide data in order to make API scoring fair and equitable.