Berkeley schools show gains on standard tests

The California Department of Education yesterday released its 2012 Accountability Progress Report, which show significant gains for Berkeley schools on both the state Annual Performance Index (API) and the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). (Details of both district and individual school results for API and AYP can be seen on the state’s Accountability Progress Reporting site.)

Berkeley Unified School District had an overall growth of 19 points for a district-wide API of 810. Each of Berkeley’s elementary and middle schools exceeded the statewide API target of 800 or above. Berkeley High School, which went years without having enough students take the test to get an API, had a 19-point growth for a school API of 734, which was above the school’s target growth for the year. Only 30% of high schools in California exceeded an API of 800.

“I think these results are evidence that Berkeley is on the right track, that we’re making a difference for our kids,” said Co-Superintendent Neil Smith. “I think particularly looking at achievement all across elementary reading was a real strength for the district. Where we still have a lot of work to do is the high school.” 

Each subgroup tracked in the results increased its score by double digits. The largest gains were a 25-point API increase for English learners, 37 points for students with disabilities, and 16 points for socio-economically disadvantaged students.

“Double digit gains are a difficult thing to do with the API each year,” said Debbie D’Angelo, director of evaluation and assessment for BUSD. “All of our efforts are making a difference. Students are showing improvement over time. That’s exciting.”

The API is a numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000. School and student group targets are set at 5% of the difference between the school or student group’s Base API score and the statewide target of 800, with a minimum target of 5 points. All numerically significant student groups at a school must meet their growth targets for a school to meet its API growth target.

Both Smith and D’Angelo were particularly encouraged that both Rosa Parks Elementary and King Middle schools exited the state’s “program improvement” status. According to D’Angelo, more than 80% of the Title I schools in the state have program improvement status, because a measured subgroup or subgroups did not meet achievement or participation targets under the state test for Adequate Yearly Progress — part of the requirements of federal No Child Left Behind legislation. AYP targets become more difficult each year as more students must score proficient or advanced.

The federal AYP consists of four components: participation rate, percent proficient (also known as Annual Measurable Objectives or AMOs), the API, and the high school graduation rate. No matter where a school began, all schools are expected to meet the same target at the same time. NCLB calls for all students in the country to reach “proficient” by 2014.

D’Angelo said a new method of assessment was “coming down the pike”, which would be a major improvement on the AYP.

“We’re optimistic about the new assessment,” she said. “It’s a computer-adaptive assessment based on our state common core standards. The teachers at the high school are already working toward teaching to the core.”

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  • jjohannson

    This is easily the best districtwide assessment I’ve seen in the six years I’ve been a BUSD parent.  This report says we have a district that — in spite of five straight years of statewide budget cuts — is lifting all boats, thanks in no small measure to Berkeley taxpayers who have refused to subject their children the byzantine budget morass that is Sacramento by supporting our parcel tax.
    The result couldn’t come at a more delicate time.  If Props 30 and 38 fail, Berkeley schoolchildren will be take a hit of over $500 per child in education funding.  This is NOT something that can be fixed by shifting priorities as the budget has been cut to the bone.  If both Prop 30 and 38 fail, class sizes will literally skyrocket, learning programs that fueled this year’s gains will be cut, and the school year will be shortened dramatically.

    The safest thing to do as a voter, in my opinion, is to vote for BOTH Props 30 and 38, and ignore the acrimony coming out of  both sides in these final days.  Let the courts sort out the intangibles of what happens if both win and just get the money to the schools.  That is by far the most important thing here.  Failure of both Props is too terrible to contemplate, especially as far as we’ve come.

    Folks, these numbers are exactly what we want to be seeing in our district — our kids are making significant gains across the board.  Tell your friends and anyone who will listen to vote up Propositions 30 and 38.  And congratulate your kids, your kids’ teachers, and yourselves for this well-earned success.

  • susie

    Congratulations! Hats off to the students, teachers, parents, administrators and Board of BUSD! 

  • William Huyett

    Congratulations to all the Berkeley students, staff and community for the sustained support for public schools. While there is still more work to be done before the achievement gap is closed, the steady improvement in student performance over the past several years is due to the collective vision of the Berkeley community, the dedicated and talented work of our teachers and staff, and the leadership of so many including our principals, the Board, and the Mayor. A rising tide does lift all boats and it seems that in Berkeley that “all the oars are hitting the water at the same time.”

  • bgal4

    Hi Bill,

    Have you seen this report about another fascinating study coming out of Shaker Heights.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/10/why-kids-should-grade-teachers/309088/2/

    This study provides evidence that it is time to rethink the racial predictability angle and focus in on factors that truly affect student achievement such as teacher performance.

    Many of us have been asking for the use of student survey for over a decade, it is time for BUSD to expand assessment methods.

    Laura M.

  • EBGuy

    Here’s how the CTA feels about surveys.  From CTA Teacher Evaluation Framework (PDF)  http://www.cta.org/~/media/Documents/PDFs/Issues%20and%20Action%20PDFs/Teacher%20Evaluation/Teacher%20Evaluation%20CTA%20Framework%20Approved%20State%20Council%20June%2010%202012.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121015T1123316448
    Surveys – These must be treated very carefully with specific parameters so that the data gathered and their uses are unbiased and fair to teachers. Surveys addressing overall school-wide issues or school climate that can be used by teachers to help inform their practice and classroom environment may be selected by the teacher to be a part of their formative evaluation and/or professional development. A survey can provide useful information, yet precautions must be taken to consider sample size, reliability, validity, bias on items/questions, and how the method of dissemination can impact results. The survey must not be part of any summative evaluation of the individual teacher. The use of survey data must be bargained and not be punitive to teachers.

  • Guest

     Berkeley teachers aren’t CTA. AFT and NEA are very different.