BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The California Department of Education will on Thursday release two closely watched measures of student performance -- High School Exit Exam and Academic Performance Index results.
And you may want to look them up to see how your kids' schools are doing. This will help.
The exit exam scores are pretty straight-forward.
Most high school students must pass the test to earn a high school diploma. Everyone takes the CAHSEE in 10th grade, but students with certain disabilities may opt out in later years.
The test is divided into two sections--math and English-language arts. In Kern County, 80 percent of test takers passed the math portion this past year, according to data released early to the media, and 79 percent passed the English-language arts portion. That compares with statewide results of 84 percent for math and 83 percent for English-language arts.
If you want to look up your child's school online, you can do so at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/hs/.
Unfortunately, you almost need a PhD to interpret the other data that's coming out, the 2013 Growth Academic Performance Index results.
In a nutshell, the API is a composite score that combines assessment information across grade levels and content areas to yield a single accountability measure for a school or district.
The index ranges from 200 to 1,000.
The State Board of Education has said that schools that score an API of at least 800 points are proficient. So schools with a score of 800 or higher are doing OK, and schools that are below 800 are considered in need of some help.
The state released so-called Base API scores in May, and set targets for schools to reach if they didn't meet the 800 benchmark. This week, the state is identifying which schools met their targets.
The Growth API results showed that the majority of schools, including 56 percent of elementary schools, half of middle schools and 31 percent of high schools, are meeting the state benchmark.
Across California, the overall API score was 789 for all grades, down two points from last year. Hispanic or Latino students scored 743, blacks scored 707, socioeconomically disadvantaged students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds scored 745 and English learners scored 720.
The state posts that data online, too, and you can sort it for statewide results, by county, by district and by school.
To look up your school, log onto: http://tinyurl.com/q23laxa.
That will get you to a list of all Kern County schools and districts. But here's a look at some of the local scores:
* Bakersfield City School District: 732.
* Fruitvale School District: 857.
* Kern High School District: 741.
* Panama-Buena Vista Union School District: 792.
* Norris Union School District: 854.
* Rosedale Union School District: 835.
Once you're on the website, choose what year you want to look at, then hit submit.
You'll see a page with six rows of columns.
The first column is the number of students evaluated to obtain the composite score for the year you're viewing. The second column is the Base API, which is the basic composite score.
The third and fourth columns are arcane rankings that we'll get to in a moment. Before they will make sense, you need to understand the difference between "base" and "growth."
The Base API is the composite score for a given year. The growth target is the number of points the state would like to see the school or district increase by in the following year, so a school that scored a base of 799 in 2012 would have a growth target of one for 2013 in order to reach the 800 score for proficiency.
The API target is the score that the school or district is shooting for. It is the sum of the Base API and the growth target.
The state doesn't expect schools to leap to 800 overnight if they are far behind. There are tiered stepping stones of growth targets for base API scores of 795 or lower.
Schools that received an 800 or higher don't have an API target.
Sometimes, instead of a number, you'll see some weird letter codes.
"A" means the school scored at or above the statewide performance target of 800. "B" means the school did not have a valid Base API last year and will not have any growth or target information. "C" means the school had significant demographic changes and will not have any growth or target information.
"D" means you're looking at either a special education school or a Local Educational Agency, or LEA, where target information isn't applicable. An LEA is usually a county office of education, but it can also be a school district.
Time to get back to those arcane ranking columns. Brace yourself. This is going to make your head hurt.
Schools are ranked in 10 categories of equal size, called deciles, from one (lowest) to 10 (highest). The school types are elementary, middle and high.
Each decile contains 10 percent of all schools of that type. A school's statewide rank is the decile where that school's Base API falls compared with the Base APIs of the other schools statewide of the same school type.
Now you know how to check on your local school in a single year.
The state doesn't make it easy to compare across years to look at long-term trends. You'd need to consolidate data for multiple years in a single spreadsheet and crunch the numbers from there.
Good luck and happy hunting.