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State's own test shows schools doing just fine

Ohanian Comment: And look at who doesn't like the state's Academic Performance Index. California Business for Education Excellence. It doesn't make public education look bad enough.

by Nanette Asimov

By California's own measure of academic achievement, the state's public schools are doing great.

More than 8 out of every 10 public schools met their test score goals on the state's Academic Performance Index -- compared with about 6 in 10 last year, state Superintendent Jack O'Connell announced Wednesday.

"These are outstanding results," O'Connell said, noting that schools that met achievement targets rose from 64 to 81 percent in one year.

The Academic Performance Index is California's way of organizing a variety of testing results into a single point system. It works on a scale of 200 to 1,000 points, with a score of 800 considered excellent. Schools succeed by inching up the scale and meeting yearly targets set at 5 percent of the difference between their score and 800.

O'Connell and other education advocates tout the Academic Performance Index as the best way to judge school quality because it assigns individualized goals to each school and district, rather than the same target for every school.

Each year, O'Connell chooses to release the results of California's API on the same day he is legally required to release the federal government's No Child Left Behind results for California.

California schools have been falling behind in the federal system, which evaluates schools differently by setting the same predetermined, one-size-fits- all achievement goals for every school and district.

O'Connell has long tried to persuade federal education officials to adopt some of the state's methods that set different targets for each school depending on how well the students did the prior year.

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has agreed to discuss the matter.

But a group called California Business for Education Excellence -- which represents the students' future employers -- calls the state's method "gobbledygook" and "confusing to parents."

"To make matters worse ... it could take students 50 years to reach grade- level proficiency," said Jim Lanich, the group's president.

The Academic Performance Index is largely a reflection of how well the schools did on the California Standards Test taken last spring by more than 4. 8 million students in grades 2 through 11.

The test is widely regarded as one of the toughest in the nation.

All Academic Performance Index results are on the state Department of Education Web site, api.cde.ca.gov/reports. asp.

E-mail Nanette Asimov at nasimov@sfchronicle.com.

— Nanette Asimov
San Francisco Chronicle


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