Test figures show mixed results

DOWNEY - API (the state's Academic Performance Index) and AYP (the federal's Annual Yearly Progress) growth report figures that are said to measure the progress made by schools and school districts for the past school year, as well as a 'watch list' identifying which schools/school districts need to improve their AYP scores, were released Wednesday and the results for the Downey Unified School District were mixed.First the good news. The district's overall API score of 760 exceeded last year's score by 16 points and thus, according to DUSD officials, "met the 2009 API criteria," in addition to meeting its graduation rate (some 92 percent vs. a target of 83.1 percent). Further, whereas last year only five schools met their API growth target school-wide and for all subgroups, this year 12 schools met or exceeded their targets: Alameda, Gauldin, Old River, Price, Rio Hondo, Unsworth, Ward, Williams, Griffiths Middle, Sussman Middle, West Middle and Warren High. The growth rates ranged from 5 points for Imperial and Williams to a whopping 56 points for Alameda. Where an 800 score indicates solid performance (800 is the state's performance goal), equivalent to saying that the school as a whole has achieved the desired criteria of proficiency to advanced levels of knowledge and skills the student should possess in their appropriate grade levels, the following five elementary schools had scores of at least 800: Alameda (821), Price (850), Unsworth (802), Ward (800) and Williams (801). A notable increase of 21 API points has been ascribed to Columbus Continuation High School as it registered a score of 579 under the Alternative Schools Accountability Model (ASAM), enough to further encourage school officials' efforts to strengthen their program serving 'at-risk' students. Now the bad news. The subgroup growth targets were not met at these six schools: Carpenter, Gallatin, Imperial, Lewis, Rio San Gabriel, East, and Downey High. Moreover, the API scores declined at Carpenter (-4), Gallatin (-1), Lewis (-5) and Rio San Gabriel (-6). Most of the 'bad' news really is concentrated in the AYP standards, which factor in different criteria from those used in API, but which the school officials said is getting "more and more difficult to meet" as the bar is raised every year until by the school year 2013-14 "l00 percent of students (Gr. 2-8 and 10) falling under No Child Left Behind indicators [should] achieve proficiency in English-language arts and mathematics." Officials said such standards are "practically impossible to meet" especially considering that the district has a lot of English learners and Special Education students in its midst (AYP brooks no argument on this: each one should achieve 100 percent proficiency by 2014 regardless.) This is such a hot topic nowadays in the educational community that there are moves afoot to restructure NCLB. Contemplated reforms even extend to considering using students' test scores to evaluate teachers, which is at the core of the debate now raging as a way to get a share of the $4 billion federal 'Race to the Top' fund, as enunciated by President Obama. In any case, 2009 AYP targets for schools was to attain 46.0 proficiency in English-language arts, and 47.5 percent in mathematics, for elementary schools, middle schools, and elementary school districts; 44.5 in ELA and 43.5 in mathematics for high schools; 45.0 in ELA and 45.5 in mathematics for unified school districts as a whole; and to meet the API requirement for AYP purposes, a school or LEA (local educational agency) must demonstrate a growth at least one point or a minimum API score at least 650. Because "as a district, we did not meet the AYP growth targets for English-language arts and mathematics for the second year," say school officials, "DUSD is in Year l" of the so-called 'watch list'; the four middle schools are now in Year 4. (The list applies only schools receiving Title I funds). There are of course rules by which a district or school can get out of the 'watch list', but it won't be easy.

********** Published: September 18, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 22

NewsEric Pierce