The Davis school district got a mixed bag of news on Thursday, as the California Department of Education released the latest batch of results for the state’s Academic Performance Index, the federal government’s Adequate Yearly Progress rankings, and the results of last year’s California High School Exit Exam.
On one level, the new numbers reflect the trend of recent years.
Once again, all of the schools in the Davis district scored about 800 points (out of 1,000 points possible) on the API — and schools over 800 are considered “high performing schools” by the state. The Davis district as a whole got an API of 881 — precisely one point higher than last year’s 880, and a statistically insignificant change.
Individual schools went up and down a bit. Three local elementary schools scored higher API figures than last year, four elementary schools scored lower than last year (but still finished above 800), and one elementary school (Korematsu) managed the rare feat of scoring the same API number for two years in a row. Two out of three junior high schools in the Davis district — Emerson and Holmes — scored API figures over 900. And Harper Junior High was not far behind, with an API of 878. And in the annual competition for the highest API by a local high school, Davis High prevailed with an API of 876, compared to 857 for Da Vinci Charter Academy. (Last year, Da Vinci took the honor by a hair, 865-864.)
These API figures are based largely on standardized tests that local students completed last spring.
Davis students also fared well on the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) last year, with 97 percent of Davis students tested passing the CAHSEE’s math section, and 96 percent of Davis students tested passing the English language arts portion of the test.
However, when it came to the federal Adequate Yearly Process report (generated under the much-criticized No Child Left Behind law, or NCLB, a carryover from the George W. Bush administration) the news for Davis was not so good: five of the district’s elementary schools now are in some phase of Program Improvement, dropping the Davis district as a whole into Program Improvement for the first time.
Under NCLB, schools have been required for several years to hit higher and higher targets in terms of student proficiency, with this year’s target being 89 percent of students testing as “proficient” or higher in English and math. NCLB will culminate in 2014 with the expectation that 100 percent of students will reach proficiency. In other words, each and every student will be expected to get a good grade in both math and English — a goal some educators privately regard as about as realistic as a government mandate that it will never rain on anybody’s wedding day, anywhere.
Birch Lane Elementary (859 API) is now in Year 2 of Program Improvement, Korematsu Elementary (896 API) is in Year 1, Montgomery Elementary (805 API) is in Year 5, North Davis(899 API) is in Year 2 and Patwin Elementary (866 API) is in Year 2. Only schools receiving federal Title 1 funding — to support children from lower-income households — are eligible for Program Improvement designation.
Therefore, several other Davis schools are not in Program Improvement for the simple reason that they do not have a qualifying percentage of low-income students.
Assistant Superintendent Clark Bryant told The Enterprise: “We are very proud of Davis students’ performance on the Academic Performance Index. Although we did see some increases and decreases, all of our schools continue to score above the statewide target of 800, with half of our schools scoring close to or above 900.”
But Bryant acknowledged “we did not meet all of our Adequate Yearly Progress federal goals under No Child Left Behind.”
Bryant also noted that “Other high-performing districts similar to Davis have entered Program Improvement this year” — among them would be the Los Gatos Union district (in suburban Silicon Valley, with an API of 929), Redondo Beach Unified (an affluent coastal district in Los Angeles County, with an API of 886) and Huntington Elementary (an affluent coastal district in Orange County, with an API of 909).
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson was more blunt when it came to NCLB. In a Thursday news conference in Sacramento, Torlakson blasted NCLB as “universally discredited” and said “the state’s system based on the API is a far better measurement of school performance.” Torlakson added, with a bit of weariness in his voice, “We’ll continue to comply with the (federal) law … even though it doesn’t make sense for California or our students.”