The California Department of Education yesterday released its 2012 Accountability Progress Report, which show significant gains for Berkeley schools on both the state Annual Performance Index (API) and the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). (Details of both district and individual school results for API and AYP can be seen on the state’s Accountability Progress Reporting site.)

Berkeley Unified School District had an overall growth of 19 points for a district-wide API of 810. Each of Berkeley’s elementary and middle schools exceeded the statewide API target of 800 or above. Berkeley High School, which went years without having enough students take the test to get an API, had a 19-point growth for a school API of 734, which was above the school’s target growth for the year. Only 30% of high schools in California exceeded an API of 800.

“I think these results are evidence that Berkeley is on the right track, that we’re making a difference for our kids,” said Co-Superintendent Neil Smith. “I think particularly looking at achievement all across elementary reading was a real strength for the district. Where we still have a lot of work to do is the high school.” 

Each subgroup tracked in the results increased its score by double digits. The largest gains were a 25-point API increase for English learners, 37 points for students with disabilities, and 16 points for socio-economically disadvantaged students.

“Double digit gains are a difficult thing to do with the API each year,” said Debbie D’Angelo, director of evaluation and assessment for BUSD. “All of our efforts are making a difference. Students are showing improvement over time. That’s exciting.”

The API is a numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000. School and student group targets are set at 5% of the difference between the school or student group’s Base API score and the statewide target of 800, with a minimum target of 5 points. All numerically significant student groups at a school must meet their growth targets for a school to meet its API growth target.

Both Smith and D’Angelo were particularly encouraged that both Rosa Parks Elementary and King Middle schools exited the state’s “program improvement” status. According to D’Angelo, more than 80% of the Title I schools in the state have program improvement status, because a measured subgroup or subgroups did not meet achievement or participation targets under the state test for Adequate Yearly Progress — part of the requirements of federal No Child Left Behind legislation. AYP targets become more difficult each year as more students must score proficient or advanced.

The federal AYP consists of four components: participation rate, percent proficient (also known as Annual Measurable Objectives or AMOs), the API, and the high school graduation rate. No matter where a school began, all schools are expected to meet the same target at the same time. NCLB calls for all students in the country to reach “proficient” by 2014.

D’Angelo said a new method of assessment was “coming down the pike”, which would be a major improvement on the AYP.

“We’re optimistic about the new assessment,” she said. “It’s a computer-adaptive assessment based on our state common core standards. The teachers at the high school are already working toward teaching to the core.”

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...