API scores highest ever, but EDUHSD still slammed

By From page A3 | November 05, 2012

Despite the highest Academic Performance Index(API) scores ever, three El Dorado Union High School District schools are in Performance Improvement status which necessitates the district offer transfers and supplemental educational services.

Christopher Moore, assistant superintendent of Educational Services and Testing for EDUHSD, predicted record high API scores for EDUHSD schools back in August and that prediction came true. “The API scores are based on tests that all students in all four grades take, and they measure four different subject areas, not just math and English/Language Arts,” said Moore. “So, in my opinion, they are a better indicator of student academic progress from year to year.”

API is the state of California’s school accountability system which measures year-to-year academic improvement for all students in public schools. Based on a numeric index ranging from a low of 200 to the highest score of 1,000, the statewide target expectation is 800.

El Dorado High School posted API scores of 8o5, a 13-point gain from 2011, Union Mine High School improved a whopping 19 points to 838, Ponderosa improved to 856 and Oak Ridge High School improved to 887, an eight-point gain. According to state standards, the students in EDUHSD are doing an outstanding job and have exceeded the state target for the sixth consecutive year, but it’s not enough for federal standards.

Schools accepting Title 1 funding to educate low-income children must meet federal Annual Yearly Performance (AYP) targets or become identified as being in Program Improvement status. API scores, graduation rates, participation rates and proficiency percentages all figure into the AYP.

If a Title 1 school fails to meet AYP for two consecutive years, the school, according to federal standards, is  in Program Improvement status. PI status requires interventions, including offering transfers of students from the PI schools to other schools in the district. El Dorado High School, Union Mine High School and Vista High School,the district’s Title 1 schools, did not meet all of  the standards in each of  the four components that make up the AYP.

“All of our students have to take the tests. Certain students with cognitive disabilities have Individual Education Plans (required under federal law) that require that the tests be read to them. This modification eliminates their tests from being counted, so it looks like we haven’t met the participation rates, but we have,” said Moore.

Another catch-22 involving students with disabilities is that some severely developmentally disabled students receive certificates of completion instead of diplomas and so they are not included in the graduation rate. “Depending upon the number of Special Day Class students, the graduation rate can be impacted,” said Moore.

The biggest sticking point is the ever-increasing proficiency target. In the 2011-2012 school year 77.8 of all 10th grade students had to meet proficiency standards for English/Language Arts and 77.4 percent must demonstrate proficiency in math. This year the percent increases to 89 percent and in 2013-2014, 100 percent of all 10th grade students, including all subgroups, must be proficient.

Many educators believe 100 percent proficiency is not possible and more than 10 states have applied for and received exemption from the AYP standards. California has applied for this exemption, but it has not yet been granted.

El Dorado High School, with a schoolwide 70 percent proficiency in both English/Language Arts and math for 2011-2012 was just under the proficiency target, while Union Mine with a 74 percent proficient in English/Language Arts and 71 percent in math was  closer, but still under target.

“Only the schools accepting Title 1 funds have to meet the AYP,” said Moore. “Ponderosa did not meet the proficiency percentages in math, but because they aren’t a Title 1 school, they won’t ever get that PI status letter and neither will Oak Ridge, even if they don’t achieve 100 percent proficiency in 2013-2014.”

The district has already notified parents at El Dorado and Union Mine high schools of the PI status and offered an opportunity to transfer their children to either Ponderosa or Shenandoah, both non-Title 1 schools.

“No child has transferred since notification went out three weeks ago,” said Moore. “We may get one or two, but I think that speaks to the level of satisfaction our parents and students have with our schools.

“It’s an indicator of how broken the system is when we have to notify families that they can transfer students to Ponderosa, which also  didn’t meet  the proficiency target in math, but because it’s not a Title 1 school, it won’t ever be in PI status,” said Moore.

Of the four  alternative high schools in EDUHSD, only Vista High School is in PI status and since this is the second year of PI, one of the interventions for improvement is to offer students supplemental educational services, free of charge. In addition to offering transfers, EDUHSD has sent a second letter informing parents of supplemental educational service providers that they may contract with to provide tutoring for their students. The district must use Title 1 funds to pay for these supplemental services.

Twice a week, teachers already provide  tutoring for Vista students after school, free of charge, with bus transportation available and the district also offers the APEX software learning system with a free online remedial program. “Those interventions are already in place,” said Moore, “and we  have to offer more, under federal law.”

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.

Wendy Schultz

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