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

API: Scores up 10 points statewide, gaps between elementary and high school

An empty classroom

BES Photos/Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

California public schools officials released the yearly Academic Performance Index on Thursday, and for the first time in the 13 years since the state started using the index, a majority of schools scored the state goal of 800 points.

That’s good news and bad news. 

The good news is that scores are up: Schools can score a maximum of 1,000 and a low of 200. Statewide, scores rose 10 points. The index consists mostly of standardized test scores taken by students from second to eleventh grade.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson praised schools for raising test scores in spite of successive budget cuts to education each year. “We’ve set a high bar for schools and they have more than met the challenge, despite the enormous obstacles that years of budget cuts have put in their way,” he said in a statement.

The bad Academic Performance Index news is that there’s a gap the size of the Grand Canyon between elementary schools and high schools that reached the 800 goal. Nearly 60 percent of state elementary schools scored 800 or above. Half that proportion, 30 percent, of high schools statewide reached the 800 point API goal.

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API scores: School Quality in Snapshot Format

In addition to releasing state Academic Performance Index numbers on Thursday, the California Department of Education is also debuting an easy-to-read School Quality Snapshot

It’s a brightly-colored report – full of graphs and pie charts – designed to simplify and aggregate key information about a school in one place.

Deb Sigman, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, said the purpose of the snapshot is to gather a set of data that would have previously required parents to visit multiple websites to compile.

She added: “This will be a great tool for schools and districts to use as they communicate to their communities and their staffs about the performance of their schools.”

The focal point of the report is the Academic Performance Index – or API – but the two-page report goes well beyond that.

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LAUSD board votes to extend superintendent's contract through June 2015

John Deasy

Nick Ut/AP

John Deasy, head of the Los Angeles Unified School District, has had his contract extended for one more year through June 2015.

The L.A. Unified board Tuesday unanimously approved extending Superintendent John Deasy's contract for one more year through June 2015.

The vote was 6-0 with board member Richard Vladovic absent because of a "hardship," according to a release from school board President Monica Garcia's office. The formerly two-year contract was set to expire in June 2014.

“Dr. Deasy and his administrative team helped move our district forward in the face of so many challenges," Garcia said in the statement. "It is evident that there is good, thoughtful leadership at LAUSD and the unanimous vote validates that.”

The contract extension was part of the district's regular annual evaluation of the superintendent's performance.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).

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Compton superintendent on student walkout: Student protests should be before or after school

University of the Pacific/Flickr

District officials didn’t have much to say after Tuesday’s student-led protest during which approximately 70 students walked out of class and marched several blocks from Compton High School to district headquarters.  

On Wednesday, Superintendent Darin Brawley released the following statement encouraging “stakeholders” to voice their concerns:

"…However, it should not be at the expense of valuable instructional time for students. We encourage that in the future, any and all protests by students be conducted before or after school."

Supt. Brawley went on to assure frustrated students concerned about the district’s plan to dissolve Advanced Placement programs that “no such thing has been proposed nor implemented for any of our secondary school sites.”

Read more: Compton High School students walk out of class

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LAUSD arts funding cut 76% in five years

arts education budget cuts

L.A. Unified

In the last five years, funding for arts education at L.A. Unified has dropped from a budgeted high of $78.6 million in 2007-8 to $18.6 million this year. The district has committed to returning funds to the 2007-8 levels.

In the last five years, funding for arts education at L.A. Unified has dropped from a budgeted high of $78.6 million to $18.6 million.

The 76 percent drop in funding equates to about $60 million, and is the result of a dramatic decrease in state support and the district's need to constrict its budget in response.

With a greater awareness for the importance of arts education today, LAUSD hasn't singled out the arts for cuts as much as before, but still cuts have happened amid the economic downturn.

"When things start getting cut, legal mandates win, and other things fall to the wayside," said L.A. Unified senior arts coordinator Steven McCarthy. He's now the only staffer of the school district's "arts education branch," which used to include about 20 people. 

On Tuesday, the L.A. Unified school board unanimously approved a measure that will make arts education a "core subject," prohibit further cuts to the arts, and ultimately restore some money to arts programs.

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