Today the California Department of Education releases scores of how schools are performing academically, in what's known as the Academic Performance Index, which is a composite of several measures, including the results of standardized tests.
California education officials say that for the first time, a majority of schools reached the coveted 800-point goal.
KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez spoke with a couple of school principals to find out what's working.
Last year, Benito Juarez Elementary School in Cerritos landed four points short of the 800 API goal. It scored 815 this year. There’s no stopping now, says principal LuAnn Adler.
"Well, we just keep moving our goal up. So our new saying is ‘850 is nifty,’" she said.
Adler says getting to 800s been hard. The school sets aside 90 minutes each week for teachers to talk about best practices, and the district has provided consultants.
"We moved our lunch hour back in the school day so we had a larger chunk of time in the morning where we felt that the children were fresher," said Adler.
In recent years the API’s turned education in California into a numbers game. Charlene Greene, principal at Ritter Elementary School near Watts, says the non-profit that runs her school has provided important training to examine test results. It even administers tests to prepare for tests.
"Literacy periodic assessments, look at the math periodic assessments, look at the science periodic assessments, we have assessments of our own that we also use, also teachers create their own assessments to help students move along," said Greene.
Greene’s school scored 763 this year, and although that fell short of the 800 goal, her school’s celebrating a 99-point improvement over five years. However, no principal should get too comfortable with this year’s scores, because they rely mostly on multiple-choice standardized tests.
UCLA researcher Joan Herman says that soon, California teachers will teach to a new set of standards known as Common Core. "Those standards bring more reasoning, thinking, communication, and problem solving to the standards that have been there in the past," she said.
State policymakers say the change is supposed to address the longstanding criticism that the API measures rote memorization, not critical thinking skills.