Burbank Unified achieved what few districts across the nation can claim: Every single campus beat the federal student testing benchmark last school year — a score of 800 on the Academic Performance Index.
The achievement was made all the more sweeter considering the test score improvements were notched during a heavy year of state funding cuts that put pressure on school districts to clamp down on spending and seek concessions from teachers unions.
Scores on the Academic Performance Index, known as API, range from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000, and are based on standardized tests. They are a cornerstone of the accountability system for California public schools, but have become one of the most controversial metrics of the federal No Child Left Behind Act because the continuous upping of the ante pushes schools into near-impossible expectations.
No matter how far a school goes in making testing gains, they must best those scores by 11% each year; otherwise, they fall into the dreaded “program improvement” category. But at a certain point, that benchmark becomes unattainable.
Statewide, 55% of elementary schools, 43% of middle schools and 28% of high schools met the state API target of 800, according to the California Department of Education.
For Burbank Unified to hit the 100% mark in that context is a major endorsement of the teachers and administrators here who, despite the pressures of budget cuts and federal testing standards, manage to deliver in a very measurable way.
Now it’s up to federal education officials to revamp the system by which schools are currently judged to take that hard work into a more nuanced, and accurate, account.