API scores skewed by low participation


Last updated 9/20/2007 at Noon

Eight to ten students may have caused the Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD) to fall short of their Academic Performance Index (API) goal.

This happened not because the students didn’t know the information on the tests scored for the API but because they didn’t take the tests at all. As a result, the district, not one of its school sites, falls under state scrutiny for program improvement. Sixty districts in California fell into the same category.

The API is a California Department of Education report, which with the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) federal report makes up California’s Accountability Progress Reporting (APR) system. The state has set 800 as the API target for all schools to meet. The FUHSD API score released in August is reported at 704, one point lower than last year.

According to Assistant Superintendent Jim Yahr, there are no specific schools in program improvement, just the district. This can happen when testing throughout the district occurs and scores from students who transferred in from other districts or out of state, three or four months after school started, are aggregated into the district’s overall score.

For example, Yahr recalls, about four years ago the district had a situation where the individual schools were making their goals, or API, but when everything was folded up into the district level they didn’t have enough students who participated in the high school exit exam.

This would mean that students who entered as sophomores who did not take the exam prior to entering the FUHSD system would be counted as students, but not as those who took the exam when the score was tallied.

Although approximately 93 percent of the students took the exam in Language Arts and Mathematics, the district needed 95 percent, which is required. “We were a few students short in each of those two years,” Yahr says. As a result, the district went into Year 1 of program improvement.

Last year they went into Year 2 because they didn’t meet their performance target in the area of Language Arts on the same exam, because of the English learner subgroup of the student population, Yahr says. There is a level of proficiency required on the exit exam and they didn’t meet their target.

This year they made all their performance targets at the district level but once again fell short of English learner student participation on the tenth grade high school exit exam.

Fallbrook Union High School administration believes the numbers recently reported don’t match their own numbers; as a result, the district is considering appealing, because not all the data may have been included in the test score tallies.

Both principal Rod King and the site coordinator believe more students were tested than reported. A data review is planned and subsequent to that an appeal if discrepancies are found.

While the district is comprised of a large English learner population, at the school site level and district level, those students met their state and federal performance targets. So even though the kids and teachers worked hard to make the goals, the district failed to meet its API objective because a few students who didn’t take the high school exit exam reduced the participation level.

FUHSD has not received its official notice yet, but since they are in Year 3, there are some specific things that will be happening. The state will tell them what they must do.

If a school site goes into Year 3, the state can require the school to offer transfers, replace employees, change lesson plans and even restructure, but that’s not likely because there is a difference between school improvement and district improvement.

When a district goes into program improvement at Year 3, the state decides what must be done. Neither Anthony nor Yahr knows what remedy the district will be required to put in place.

“The state is trying to work out the details, because this is the first year you can have a Year 3 district,” Yahr says.

Anthony and Yahr don’t expect drastic consequences. They plan to show state officials that their students hit the academic target, and if the numbers hold true, they have an issue with participation rate.

“We expect the state to say, ‘Just keep on doing what you’re doing and we’re going to watch,’” Anthony said.


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