In recent days we have learned about a new way to report student,
school and district achievement to members of the educational, parent and
business communities served by the Burbank Board of Education. This
reporting system is called the Academic Performance Index and it is being
used statewide to rank all California public schools in relation to each
other and in relation to other schools with similar characteristics and
What does the API have to do with my child's education?
The API is a part of an overall program to provide the public with
information about how well the schools are educating students. The
accountability will also give educators valuable information they can use
in designing training programs for teachers and modifying class work to
better address the academic needs of specific groups of students within a
How will this affect me as a parent?
As a parent, you undoubtedly have an opinion about how well your
child's school is addressing the needs of its students. You may choose to
become more involved in your child's education or in the school based on
this information. Research shows that parent involvement has a positive
impact on student performance.
What is the API?
Simply put, the Academic Performance Index is a new method, initiated
by the state, to measure overall student performance at every California
public school. In January, every school receives a single number on a
scale of 200 to 1000, with 1000 being the highest possible score. The
state has set an API of 800 as the target all schools should strive to
meet. Schools that have reached the state target must maintain that
performance. Schools that fall short of the state target will be given a
target based on 5% of the difference between their current index and the
state goal of 800.
What measures are used to determine the API?
For the current year (1999-2000), the API is using the results of the
Stanford 9 Achievement Test administered each spring in our district and
in all California districts. In future years, the API will include other
criteria, such as scores obtained on the high school exit examination as
well as graduation and attendance rates.
What does the API measure?
In grades two to eight, the API measures performance in four content
areas: reading, mathematics, language arts and spelling. Each content
area counts as a particular percentage of the overall score: reading,
30%; mathematics, 40%; language arts, 15%; and spelling, 15%.
In grades nine to 11, the API measures performance in five content
areas that are weighted as follows: mathematics, 20%; reading, 20%;
language arts, 20%; history/social science, 20%; and science, 20%.
What is the incentive for schools to improve their API scores?
The state goal of 800 or higher on the Academic Performance Index was
selected to indicate the schools are producing students with a high level
of academic competency. Parents, legislators, educators and stakeholders
in the community will scrutinize the API each year in pursuit of a high
level of academic achievement for all students. Setting realistic but
challenging goals for growth and performance is powerful way of
encouraging improved performance. Schools that meet their growth targets
will be eligible for cash and nonmonetary awards from the state. Under
performing schools that fail to improve over a specified period, may
receive sanctions from the state.
Is the API a fair measurement tool?
Given the differences in student background and the resources
available to schools, not all schools and students start out the same. In
order to make comparisons that are equitable, the Academic Performance
Index is progressively weighted by quintiles. More points are given for
improvement by low-achieving students than for improvement by
high-achieving students. Using this method, variables such as student
background, school resources, and programs can be part of the comparison
of like schools.
Currently all English Language Learners are required to take the
Stanford 9T in English. These scores were factored into a school's 1999
API. Only scores for English Language Learners enrolled in the school
district for less than one year were deleted. It is anticipated that by
2001, the state will implement a new standardized test specifically
designed to test the knowledge and academic skills of English Language
Learners. It is expected that the results from this test will be factored
into future calculations on the API to give a more accurate picture of
Where can I go for more information?
Neighborhood schools were given a full report of their performance on
Jan. 25. This information will be presented to interested school-related
groups, such as the PTA and parents and school site councils. A brochure
will be available at each school site explaining the API. The calculation
for each school in the district is available through your local school,
the Internet (the state Department of Education at www.cde.ca.gov/psaa)
or from the Burbank Unified School District Office of Student and Program
Evaluation at 558-5393.
* MIKE McDONALD is a member of the Burbank Board of Education. Reach
him at 558-5322.