Brown administration looks to diminish influence of API

Brown administration looks to diminish influence of API

(Calif.) Move over API. You’re not the top dog for determining school success anymore, the president of the state’s Board of Education said this week.

Instead, if Mike Kirst gets his way, the Academic Performance Index – long the state’s go-to tool for measuring how well schools are performing – will become in the eyes of the public just one component of a much larger, more robust reporting tool already required under the new Local Control Funding Formula.

 “In the past the API was the be-all, end-all and now it’s just part of a much bigger system. People need to move beyond the API,” Kirst said in an interview Wednesday.

The LCFF – ushered through the Legislature by Gov. Jerry Brown last summer – provides additional school funding and gives local governing boards greater control over spending decisions. But the law also requires that districts develop Local Control and Accountability Plans detailing how expenditures are helping schools attain eight state education priorities, including pupil achievement, parent engagement, school climate and the implementation of state standards and student access to rigorous curriculum.

The API is just one data set among seven in the new law that address pupil achievement. There are an additional 16 data points among the state’s other seven priority areas.

Currently, the API has been suspended for two years to allow for K-12 education’s transition to Common Core State Standards and new, aligned testing. But in the near future parents, policy makers and the media will come to depend on the LCAP instead.

The 2014-15 fiscal year was the first year that districts needed to prepare an LCAP as part of their goal setting and budget processes. Under the system, districts must report many other indicators beyond test scores – student attendance rates, suspensions, middle school dropout rates and test scores for foster youth.

Meanwhile, the state board must adopt by October 2015 a new evaluation rubric to help calibrate the strengths and weaknesses of student improvement plans outlined in the LCAP.

Kirst said work is underway for the new rubric, which might include other performance indicators beyond those already being used in the LCAP. State board staff, working with the education research and services firm WestEd, is in the process of convening education experts and stakeholders for the creation of a framework for the new rubric. That work will determine how to evaluate data elements and other indicators that could be linked to each of the state priorities. Such a comprehensive accountability system will provide a much broader picture of how well schools and districts are preparing students for success in college and/or careers.

“Our job now is to develop a new accountability system including the evaluation rubrics reflecting the eight state priorities that the Legislature has set for school districts under the LCFF,” Kirst said. “It’s a new conceptual framework for the state to work with that comes out of the LCAP statute.”

Meanwhile, an advisory committee convened to help restructure the API itself, continues its search for valid career-readiness measures to add to the index, which up to now has been based 100 percent on student test scores. The committee has already made a recommendation for incorporating graduation rates into the equation – required as of 2012 – but the state board held off on adopting that methodology until its LCAP work is completed. The LCAP rubric must be adopted by the state board by October 1, 2015.

Kirst said it is the state’s intention that LCAPs become the new school district success reporting tools, and that the public should familiarize itself with these plans.

“The API can’t and won’t be everything,” said Kirst, because so much more is now required under the new funding and accountability system. “Parent involvement probably shouldn’t be in the API; basic services probably shouldn’t be in an API; levels of implementation of state standards – no. So [the API] won’t encompass everything and what it is and what it will be is to be determined.”