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March 16, 2004 > FUSD 2003 API Base Scores Posted

FUSD 2003 API Base Scores Posted

by Gary Leatherman

The California Department of Education posted the Academic Performance Index 2003 Base Scores for all state schools, including those in the Fremont Unified School District. The API is a state measure of student achievement by school that consists of a base score that is established each year and a growth score that is posted the following year to determine whether improvement targets are being met.
The 2003 growth scores were posted last fall. School improvement relative to the new 2003 base scores will be reported in the 2004 growth scores to be published this fall. API is scored on a scale of 200-1,000. Schools that score 800 or higher are classified as "high achieving."

Both the base scores and the growth scores are determined by an analysis of a battery of tests administered to students in the spring of each year. Because the weight given in the formula to California state standards has been increasing each year, direct comparisons of scores from one year to the next may not give an accurate picture of how a given school is performing during the current transition, FUSD officials said, but eventually the process is expected to give schools a useful tool to identify where resources should be concentrated to improve student success.

The 2003 API summarizes results of various statewide assessments and indicators. The indicators used in the API have included the California Standards Tests (CST) in English-language arts and mathematics for grades 2-11 and history-social science in grades 10-11. The California Achievement Test, Sixth Edition Survey, (CAT/6 Survey) includes content in reading, language, spelling and math for grades 2-11. The content areas for grades 9-11 include reading, language, math and science. The California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) covers English-language arts and math for grade 10.

FUSD Testing and Assessment Coordinator Jessica Zektser said several new testing elements were introduced this year, including the California Science Standards Tests for grades 9-11 for course-specific tests in biology/life science, earth science, chemistry and physics and the California Alternative Performance Assessment (CAPA) for students with disabilities that require them to take an alternate test.

She said the new baseline places very strong emphasis on tests specifically designed to measure student achievement against California's high state academic standards. Eighty percent of the API for elementary and middle schools rests on the results of the CST, while almost 90 percent of the API for high schools rests on the results of the CST and the CAHSEE. The remainder of the API rest on the CAT/6 Survey.

Superintendent John Rieckewald noted that comparing this year's base score with scores from previous years would be inappropriate because of the changes in the test content. "With the addition of new test components in the calculations, any comparisons become somewhat suspect because you are not comparing similar scores. Overall, we are pleased with the performance of our schools. In Fremont Unified School District, our focus continues to be on continual improvement at all levels and with all subgroups.

"Our test scores continue to reflect the hard work of our school personnel to present the state standards in a comprehensible manner to ensure that our students are prepared for the demands of the 21st Century, as well as the state assessments. We will continue to evaluate our performance against those expectations. In spite of our high scores overall, we believe that all of our schools will continue to improve as they maintain our quest to raise the academic performance of all students."

Even without being compared to previous results, the 2003 API Base Scores in themselves indicate that FUSD schools are performing well. Twenty-one of the 38 schools for which results were posted (55 percent) have achieved 800 or above and are classified as "high achieving." Five schools posted scores lower than 700.

The state also classifies schools in two sets of API rankings on a scale of 1-10. One ranking is based on raw scores and the other on a score adjusted to compare schools based on similarities of demographics and socio-economic factors.
Thirty-six FUSD schools (95 percent) have an overall state rank of five or higher. Twenty-four schools (63 percent) have a similar-schools rank of five or higher.

Rieckewald said the accuracy of the similar schools ranking system is questionable. "While the state has attempted to create similar-schools rankings," he said, "this method is imperfect at best because schools aren't always compared to those that have the same demographic characteristics, the comparison schools can change yearly and the characteristics seem to be weighted differently.
"For the comparison scores to be more meaningful, the schools in the comparison group should remain more constant. Otherwise the comparison represents a sampling of schools with similar demographics rather than truly similar schools. Although interesting, the comparison rank is not as important to us as the API score itself," he said.

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