Students improve state test scores

BURBANK — Students’ overall academic performance on state tests continues to trend upward in Burbank, Glendale and across the state, according to revised Academic Performance Index data released Wednesday by the state Department of Education.

Burbank Unified School District’s 2007 Base Academic Performance Index, which was based on the results of state tests students took in spring 2007, was 788, up from 782 in 2006.

The API score is a number between 200 and 1,000 that summarizes student performance on state tests like the California Standards Tests and the California High School Exit Exam. The index numbers for 2007 were initially released in August but have to be updated annually to account for variations in the state tests that are included in the index, school district officials said.

While comparing the base index levels from year to year isn’t a perfect comparison because the tests that factor into the index are tweaked each year, the overall upward trend on the index shows that schools are making progress in improving student proficiency, said Joel Shapiro, deputy superintendent for the Burbank Unified School District.

“We’ve very pleased to see that constant movement,” Shapiro said.

The fact that the districtwide API score in Burbank is approaching 800 — the state’s goal for all schools — is a good thing, Shapiro said.

“The trend is a very healthy trend,” he said.

Glendale Unified School District’s 2007 Base Academic Performance Index was 807, five points higher than the district’s academic index level in 2006.

The continued rise in academic index numbers is a trend that Glendale Unified has experienced for the past several years, school district officials said. In 2002, Glendale Unified’s base index level was 734, according to state data.

“All our schools as an aggregate are continuing to increase their student achievement,” said Lila Bronson, the district’s director of instructional technology and assessment.

Across the state, the number of schools reaching performance index levels of 800 is up, a trend that State Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell lauded.

“Our Academic Performance Index pushes schools to make improvements each year,” O’Connell said in a statement.

The data released Wednesday will serve as the basis for comparison for API numbers that will be released in August. With that August data — which will summarize student performance on state tests in spring 2008 — school districts will be able to compare the change in student performance on state tests between spring 2007 and spring 2008.

Before releasing the 2008 API data in August, the state releases revised numbers that take into account changes in the testing parameters that make up the index, school district officials said.

“Every year, there’s a new sort of ‘norming’ that takes place,” Bronson said.

This year, some students with disabilities in grades three through five took a new state test. Factoring the new test into the performance index for the first time meant that the performance index levels needed to be adjusted, according to the state.

The state Department of Education also ranks schools statewide into groups according to their index scores to show how schools stack up against one another. Schools are given a ranking between 1 and 10 — 10 being the best, 1 being the worst.

In those rankings, also released Wednesday, Glendale and Burbank’s numbers didn’t change much from last year to this year, school district officials said. One reason behind that trend is that each group includes hundreds of schools, so the rankings do not tend to change from year to year, Bronson said.

The state also released rankings comparing schools to others from across the state with similar demographic characteristics. These rankings can be more volatile, according to school officials, because each group contains a smaller number of schools.

The 1-to-10 rankings are also tricky because a school’s number can fall not because its score went down, but because enough other schools’ scores went up, district officials said.

District officials are anticipating receiving a new set of performance index scores this summer, which will allow them to gauge changes in academic performance between last year and this year.

“We hear more in August,” Shapiro said. “We’re always anxious to see more about what comes out in August.”


 ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at angelahokanson@latimes.com.

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