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By GreatSchools Staff
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 results into a single number. Each school's STAR and CAHSEE results are calculated into a complex formula that assigns the school an API between 200 and 1000 (1000 being the best score). The state has set 800 as the target API score that schools should try to achieve. Each API cycle includes a Base API and a Growth API. The Growth API is calculated using test results from the school year after the results used in the Base API calculation. The difference between the Growth API and Base API measures a school's academic growth from one year to the next.
The API number is translated into a ranking, 1 to 10, from underperforming to high performing. It is used to help schools track their own progress and to hold schools accountable for improvement. The API is an important metric because schools that consistently fall short can be subject to strong local or state sanctions, including reorganization or closure. Schools also can be eligible for recognition through the California Distinguished Schools Program. So it's important to pay attention to the API, as this number may have a big impact on your school's future.
The 2011 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 2010-2011 school year. The California Department of Education releases the Base API results each spring. The Base API is used to measure academic improvement from one year to the next by comparing it to the Growth API released the following summer.
The 2012 Growth API will be 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.
Each school is assigned an API growth target by the state. For Base APIs between 200 and 690, the growth target is 5 percent of the difference between the Base API and 800. For schools with a Base API from 691 to 795, the growth target is five points. Schools with a Base API above 795 are expected to increase to and/or maintain an API of 800 or greater. A school meets its overall API growth target if it meets its schoolwide target and all numerically significant subgroup targets.
Improvement is measured by subtracting the 2011 Base API from the 2012 Growth API. Positive numbers mean that standardized test results improved, while negative numbers indicate that test results declined.
Numerically significant subgroups are defined by the state as having at least 100 students in the group who have valid test results or when there are 50 or more such students and they constitute at least 15 percent of all tested students. Subgroups include the following ethnic and socioeconomic categories: Black or African American (not of Hispanic origin), American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Filipino, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, White (not of Hispanic origin), two or more races, socioeconomically disadvantaged, English learners, and students with disabilities. 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.
The California Department of Education ranks 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.
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 student ethnicity, parent education levels, and the percent of students receiving a free or reduced-price lunch.
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.
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.
There are several reasons why some schools don't have API results. For example, if a school failed to test at least 85 percent 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.
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