So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

API scores: An educational horse race that will soon change

L.A. County Fair

The California Department of Education will release the Academic Performance Index numbers Thursday in an annual tradition that is perhaps the closest equivalent to educational horse racing — parents and schools obsess over the scores and districts work to make them higher.

The California Department of Education will release the Academic Performance Index numbers Thursday in an annual tradition that's the educational equivalent to horse racing — like oddsmakers poring over a racing form, parents and schools obsess over the meaning of scores; like trainers in search of a winning strategy, school districts sweat to push the scores higher.

But this state measure, as it currently exists, will soon be obsolete.

The API gives schools a score between 200 and 1000 that's calculated from the STAR (Standardized Testing and Reporting) exam and the California High School Exit Examination results; schools aim for a score of at least 800. 

But educators say that's hardly a full measure of a school's effectiveness. Parents often have to dig for other relevant information such as class sizes and graduation rates.

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New CA law will focus less on test scores as part of API

scantron standardized test

timlewisnm/Flickr Creative Commons

A new California law will focus less on test scores in calculating the annual Academic Performance Index measures that are often used by schools and parents to rank their overall performance.

The Academic Performance Index --  a number that educators and parents have obsessed over to rank their schools' performance each year -- will focus less on student test scores and more on a school's overall ability to prepare students for college and the workplace under a new measure Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law.

SB 1458 by Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento became state law Wednesday. It limits test scores to no more than 60% of the API for high schools and at least 60% in elementary and middle schools. The remainder of the score will factor in graduation rates, students' preparedness for college or technical training and graduates' ability to compete in the global job market.

"For years, 'teaching to the test' has become more than a worn cliche because 100% of the API relied on bubble test scores in limited subject areas," Steinberg said in a statement. "But life is not a bubble test and that system has failed our kids."

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