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Most TTUSD schools rank above average in academic performance

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

The school district received a good report card from the state this week when the results of the 1999 Academic Performance Index (API) report were released.

Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District schools ranked high among other public schools in California in academic performance in the first-year results of the new statewide accountability system on public education.

Tahoe-Truckee and North Tahoe High Schools ranked 9 out of 10 (10 being the highest) among other public high schools in the state; in the top 20 percentile.

“I think that’s really commendable,” said TTUSD Assistant Superintendent Jim Abbott. “The end results with the high schools’ ranking high is excellent. This is just the first time through.”

The Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA) of 1999 requires that the California Department of Education annually calculate APIs for California public schools and publish school rankings. The API scores for each school were calculated from the results of the Stanford 9 Achievement Tests (Stat 9), were taken last spring by students in grades 2-ll. The API scale ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000 – a score of 800 is the established statewide performance target.

“Today marks a significant milestone on the path to the creation of a comprehensive accountability system for California public schools,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin in a press release issued on Tuesday, Jan. 25.

The PSAA requires the establishment of a minimum 5 percent annual API growth target for each school that scores under 800. A school that meets either the API growth or performance target is eligible for rewards under the Governor’s Performance Award Program.

Tahoe Lake Elementary was the only school in the district that has already met the statewide performance target with an API of 803, and a statewide elementary school rank of 9. According to the California Department of Education, approximately 12 percent of California’s schools have reached the statewide target.

“The 1999 API results should be seen as a starting point for our schools,” Eastin said. “The statewide target establishes where we want all schools to be. What’s important is that, wherever schools are on the API scale, they can and must show academic progress. This improvement in student achievement is the goal of our accountability system.”

The statewide median elementary school API score is 629; median middle school API score is 633; and the median high school API score is 620.

The 1999 API Report also includes a school’s rank when compared to schools with similar background characteristics. Characteristics included pupil mobility, ethnicity and socioeconomic status; percentage of teachers who are fully credentialed and who hold emergency credentials; percentage of pupils who are English language learners; average class size per grade level and whether the schools operate multitrack year-round educational programs.

“It’s a system that allows you to look at the achievement of various schools to others,” Abbott said. “It’s a step towards greater accountability. Hopefully things that seem to be issues now will be addressed by the state.”

One concern Abbott identified was that students in California were tested based on a nationally normed standardized test.

The Stat 9 tests administered to California students are nationally normed multiple choice test of basic academic skills. The norm group was composed of 250,000 students selected from across the United States. Only 1.8 percent of the norm group were Limited English Proficient (LEP), whereas 21.2 percent of students statewide and 9.7 districtwide were LEP. Some educators feel tests are inaccurate because they do not represent California’s diverse population.

Kings Beach Elementary School, which has a population of approximately of 60 percent Hispanic students, scored the lowest in the district with a 1999 API of 512.

According to Abbott, the LEP students at Kings Beach and Truckee Elementary schools also take the Spanish Assessment of Basic Education (SABE) test, the state approved Spanish language alternative to the Stat 9.

“Many of those children are tested in a language in which they are not yet proficient,” Abbott said. “But they do very well on the SABE at Kings Beach and Truckee Elementary. The results are typically above or at the national average when they are tested in their own language.”

The PSAA also included results for subgroups, or “numerically significant ethnic or socioeconomically disadvantaged subgroups.” Subgroups must constitute at least 15 percent of a school’s total population and consist of at least 30 pupils. If a subgroup defined by ethnicity or socioeconomic disadvantage constitutes at least 100 pupils, that subgroup is considered “numerically significant” and is required to demonstrate comparable improvement.

Kings Beach and Truckee Elementary schools both had numerically significant subgroups in both Hispanic and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations. The socioeconomically disadvantaged subgroup includes students whose parents have not received a high school diploma or who participate in the free and reduced lunch program.

At Kings Beach, 157 students made up the Hispanic or Latino subgroup with an API of 366. The socioeconomically disadvantaged subgroup included 187 students with an API of 400. The white, not Hispanic group, consisting of 98 students, had a 731 API.

In order for schools to be eligible for cash or other types of awards from the state, they must meet their school-wide and student subgroup growth targets. A school’s growth target is five percent of the distance between the 1999 API and the statewide performance level of 800; therefore, schools that have a lower API have to improve significantly more to reach their growth target and receive their rewards. According to Abbott, schools that reach their target can be awarded as much as $150 per student.

The CDE reported that schools that do not reach their target may be eligible for interventions or ultimately state sanctions.

Some educators have argued that the incentive program is unfair to schools who scored lower and have a larger growth target to fulfill. Perhaps the schools need additional resources to raise their API scores; however, they can’t afford those resources until their scores are raised, Abbott said.

Close to $200 million was allocated in 1999-2000 for the PSAA’s interventions and awards programs. An additional $50 million was allocated for the Certificated Staff Performance Incentive Act, enacted in June 1999, which provides performance bonuses to teacher and other certificated staff in underachieving schools that “significantly improve” beyond their annual API growth target.


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