About the API

The purpose of the Academic Performance Index (API) is to measure the year-over-year growth in academic performance for California schools. The API summarizes a school's standardized test scores into a single number, which ranges from 200 to 1000. The statewide API goal is 800 for all schools; higher numbers generally indicate better performance on the tests.

Base API
The 2012 Base API was calculated using each school's test results from the state's Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program and the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) taken during the 2011-2012 school year. The Base API is used to measure academic improvement from one year to the next by comparing it to the Growth API.

API Growth targets
Each school is assigned an API Growth target by the state. The Growth target is determined by calculating 5% of the difference between the Base API and 800, or a minimum of 1 point growth. Schools with APIs at or above 800 must maintain a minimum API of 800. A school meets its overall API Growth target if it meets its schoolwide target and all numerically significant subgroup targets. Growth targets for subgroups are generally 80 percent of the schoolwide target. Improvement is measured by subtracting the 2012 Base API from the 2013 Growth API which will be released late summer 2013. Positive numbers mean that standardized test scores improved, while negative numbers indicate that test scores declined.

Growth API
The 2012 Growth API was calculated using the same test criteria as the 2011 Base API. However, the 2012 Growth API was calculated from the 2011-2012 standardized test results, while the 2011 Base was calculated using the 2010-2011 test results. The Growth API is used as a measure of improvement in academic performance when compared to the Base API.

API subgroups
Numerically significant subgroups are defined by the state as having at least 100 students in the group who have valid test scores or when there are 50 or more such students and they constitute at least 15% of all tested students. Subgroups include the following ethnic and socioeconomic categories: African American or Black (not of Hispanic origin), American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Filipino, Hispanic or Latino, Pacific Islander and White (not of Hispanic origin), plus socioeconomically disadvantaged. Students are categorized as socioeconomically disadvantaged if they participate in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program or if their parents did not graduate from high school.

Statewide Rank
The California Department of Education ranked all schools from 1 to 10 according to their Base API. A rank of 10 means that the school's API fell into the top 10% of all schools in the state at the same grade level. The most recent ranks are based on the results of standardized tests taken in spring 2011.

Similar Schools Rank
The API Similar Schools Rank compares the test score performance of schools with comparable demographic profiles using a scale of 1 to 10. A school with a low API but high Similar Schools Rank may be more effective than a school with low ranks all around.

The California Department of Education calculated the Similar Schools Rank by comparing each school to 100 schools with similar demographic factors, including parent education levels and the percent of students receiving a free or reduced-price lunch.

Why do the API results matter?
As a fundamental part of the Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA), API scores are used to meet state and federal requirements for school accountability and are an important component for measuring a school’s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. These ratings can have substantial consequences for schools. Under-performing schools are given additional funds to encourage improvement and high-ranking schools may be eligible for additional acknowledgement.

It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall score for his school. If your child scores below the standards, contact his teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home. If the school's overall scores are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you as a parent can do to help.

Why do some schools not have APIs?
There are several reasons why some schools don't have API results. For example if a school failed to test at least 85% of eligible students or if the school tested fewer than 11 students, the state does not calculate an API for that school. Schools that serve specific kinds of students, such as special education schools, are currently accountable under a different model.

A few parting words
State ratings don't tell you everything about the quality of a particular school, although they can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom. Always look at more than one measure when judging the quality of a school and plan a visit to the school before making any final assessment.

Source: California Department of Education, 2011-2012

Close this window