Policy & Finance > Federal Education Policy

State Board makes it official: No API scores for next two years



QUICK HITS (USE THIS!!!)With federal approval finally in hand to give a Common Core-aligned practice test this spring, the State Board of Education took the inevitable next step this week. It suspended the Academic Performance Index, the chief measure of schools’ academic growth or progress, for this year and next.

A reconstituted API will resume in 2015-16, incorporating results from the Smarter Balanced assessments, the new Common Core tests for English language arts and math that will be given to students in grades 3 to 8 and grade 11.

California is doing a Smarter Balanced field or practice test this year and formally launching the operational Smarter Balanced test in spring 2015. That test will provide the base API. Results from the 2016 test will provide the growth API, a basis for comparison and calculation of a school’s three-digit API number.

California is in the first stages of transforming its school and district accountability systems, including the creation of new standardized tests in nearly every subject. It is also rethinking the components of the API itself.

Last year, with the passage of AB 484, the state Legislature terminated the administration of nearly all California Standards Tests, the tests measuring students’ knowledge of the old state academic standards, and authorized the transition to new higher quality tests in all subjects, starting with Smarter Balanced assessments in English language arts and math. (Existing science tests in grades 5, 8, and 10, required by federal law, are continuing.) AB 484 also mandated a fresh start by explicitly banning the comparison of schools’ California Standards Tests scores with the Smarter Balanced scores. The state board’s vote to suspend the API officially creates a two-year hiatus.

Civil rights groups and some policy analysts, such as Anne Hyslop of New America Foundation (see her scathing March 13 column), criticized California’s break in accountability as an abdication of efforts to close the achievement gap and inform parents of their children’s progress. They pointed out that other states that adopted the Common Core standards created either transition tests or other ways to bridge the gap in scores between their old and new tests. U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan, pointing to the federal requirement under the No Child Left Behind law to administer annal state tests for accountability purposes, threatened to fine California millions if not billions of dollars.

But California’s education leaders, including state Superintendent Tom Torlakson, state board President Michael Kirst, and a majority of the Legislature took the unified position that California’s teachers and schools needed to focus exclusively on implementing Common Core  and preparing for the new, more rigorous tests. And Duncan relented earlier this month, granting California a waiver without penalties. The state will be allowed to give a Smarter Balanced field or practice test to all students this year and to resume reporting scores for federal accountability purposes under NCLB next year.

The API itself is evolving. Another state law, championed by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, requires that at least 40 percent of the API incorporate other measures, such as high school graduation rates or perhaps indicators of college and career readiness, starting in 2015-16. The Local Control Funding Formula de-emphasizes the API and standardized tests by including it as only one of eight priorities of school and student achievement that districts must address.

The two-year break in the API will give the state board more time to think through how to fit various pieces and laws together.

Filed under: Federal Education Policy, Local Control Funding Formula, State Board, Testing and Accountability

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10 Responses to “State Board makes it official: No API scores for next two years”

  1. Steve Rees said

    on March 15, 2014 at 11:42 am

    You have a broken link to Anne Hyslop’s opinion piece. I am eagerly awaiting your fix.

  2. Doug Lasken said

    on March 15, 2014 at 11:50 am

    The real reason CA.rushed in CCS implementation before transitional assessments are in place is so the checks will be in the mail to the publishing and testing industries, which is the real reason for Common Core in the first place.

  3. Bill Honig said

    on March 16, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Here is a reply to Anne Hyslop’s piece that was posted as a comment to her article.

    Anne Hyslop’s piece contains several severely misguided statements and assumptions routinely made by many critics of public education.

    First, the student proficiency level she refers to is an arbitrarily set level that is not the same as being able to read or do math. It actually equates to about A or B work. The goal of 100% of students reaching this arbitrary level was always illegitimate, set mainly to look like the politicians were being tough. No jurisdiction, not even the high-flying nations, states, or school districts have ever come close to 100% proficiency. Now that 2014 is here, as predicted, huge numbers of schools aren’t meeting the wildly inflated 100% standard (including many of the nation’s best schools). That is not an indication of low-performance but of an ill-considered level established 12 years ago. Actually, in the last well-respected National Assessment Educational assessment , California’s 8th graders averages grew faster in reading than all other states (9 points which is substantial) and was among the top five states in math in growth.

    Secondly, Ms. Hyslop fails to mention that California is a member of the Smarter/Balanced assessment group and has committed to assess its students in 2015 under the new common core based assessment. So the 1-2 year state test hiatus is temporary. Further, her statement that California is ditching its accountability system is erroneous. Under state legislation, the state is redesigning its accountability during the temporary pause in state assessment and will adopt a full-scale redesigned accountability that will incorporate data from the new test but is also be broader than just reading and math scores. The system will also include drop-out rates, history and science and other measures of student performance in 2015.
    She also overestimates the usefulness of mandated state assessments in helping schools improve and substantially understates the unfairness and disruption of asking teachers to make a major effort implementing the new Common Core curriculum while their students and maybe themselves are being evaluated on an old test based on the previous curriculum. The benefit of attending to implementing Common Core and building capacity to make that implementation successful will have a huge payoff in performance. The risk of sabotaging that effort by focusing on getting ready for old tests is considerable. Finally, not giving an antiquated test for two years does not mean that schools and districts will not have student performance data available. Most have a plethora of assessments and accountability measures to gauge how students are doing and to help decide how best to improve instruction during the pause.

    • el replied

      on March 17, 2014 at 9:14 am

      Thank you, Bill.

  4. Don Krause said

    on March 16, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Bill,

    Thank for that sensible explanation of the delay/transition to Common Core and the Smarter Balanced testing that accompanies it.

    I understand the new API will include, besides ELA and math scores, other parameters including drop-out and suspensions rates and attendance. While these parameters provide useful information about schools I’m not clear how they are specific measures of academic performance. Future decreases in suspension rates may be more a function of local and state laws and policies concerning willful defiance than any actual benefit derived from such actions. It is possible that these policies backfire and that academic performance suffers through increases classroom management issues and decreased instructional time while API increases on paper.

  5. Don Krause said

    on March 16, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Thank you

  6. Chris Stampolis said

    on March 21, 2014 at 7:04 am

    While the 100 percent expectation was unreasonable, student proficiencies in subjects like math and reading are gateways to post-12th grade academic success.

    Not all schools are “equal.” And society has reasons to identify and focus on fixing underperformance.

    Few students enter careers based on having only a high school diploma. But to gain the next level of academic success, one must have at least algebra proficiency, strong reading skills and high quality writing skills – including good grammar and spelling. Can a future employer count on a student’s professional abilities? Will the student pass future certification exams?

    The “new” tests are not much different from the “old” tests. The new tests require students to prove even more proficiencies than before by including direct answer questions in addition to multiple choice questions.

    The real question is if we will value testing public school students to compare school, community and demographic proficiencies.

    Chris Stampolis
    Trustee, Santa Clara Unified School District
    408-771-6858. stampolis@aol.com

  7. Concerned Teacher said

    on April 25, 2014 at 7:49 am

    So this common core test will make up 60% of the API score. Remind you, this is a test that students have no buy-in whatsoever. It’s not a high stakes test, and it’s not attached to a grade. Therefore, like in the test run we had last week, students will just click, click, click, and then it becomes a reflection on how well the teachers are teaching. Further, after seeing the questions for both the English and the Math, I can’t help but wonder if they purposely want schools to fail.

    Why would our govt. want schools to fail? Schools fail, charter and other business model schools come in and the state and federal govt. make money that way. It’s a flawed system where the interest and investment isn’t in the students’ best interest. Think about it.

    Those who teach, teach. Those who can’t, make policies about teaching.

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