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Brown signs law overhauling school evaluation

High schools will embrace factors other than standardized test scores

Posted: September 27, 2012 12:00 p.m.
Updated: September 27, 2012 12:00 p.m.

Abandoning the benchmark of academic achievement in California for more than a decade, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Wednesday that will overhaul the system for evaluating high schools.

The Academic Performance Index is the cornerstone of California’s Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999, which created an 1-1,000 index by which schools and districts are measured.

A school or district API is calculated based on how well students are improving on the state’s two main standardized tests — the annual STAR test for state evaluation, and the state’s exit exam, said Vicki Engbrecht, assistant superintendent of educational services.

The new law mandates that an API score be determined based on no more than 60 percent of the standardized test scores. The other 40 percent will be determined by a system calculated by the state superintendent’s office and the Board of Education, said said Mark Hedlund, a representative for state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who authored the legislation.

“The whole concept here is to incorporate other factors, such as graduation rates and college readiness, so we have a more accurate picture of how schools are achieving,” Hedlund said.

The new law will take effect for the 2015-16 school year. It applies only to high school scores.

“The current API relies on results from the STAR testing and the (exit exam),” Engbrecht said. “It weighs math and language arts very heavily.”

Local administrators are excited about the change, which also comes in anticipation of the state moving toward new curricula standards known as Common Core Standards Initiative in 2013-14, Engbrecht said.

“I think this is a way that the governor and the state superintendent (have) of setting a goal for us, and the details on how it’s going to be implemented will be developed over the next couple of years,” she said.

These moves will discourage educators from “teaching to the test,” which also can put more of an emphasis on test-taking skills than on learning and studying skills, officials said.

“I strongly believe in using multiple measures to talk about success,” said Gloria Mercado-Fortine, school board president for the William S. Hart Union High School District. “You want to look at a variety of measures, and a single one doesn’t do the students any good. And it doesn’t help the teachers or the school district.”

“An (API score) was never intended to be based solely on test scores, but that’s what it become,” Hedlund said.

“It’s certainly is not an accurate measurement of how our schools are doing, or how our kids are doing in school, when you rely on the results of a bubble test.”




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