California students show gains on standardized tests

More California students taking state standardized tests met state and federal assessment benchmarks in 2008 than in 2007 — despite the fact that the federal bar is higher than ever.

This year, 53 percent of all schools in the state met the state’s Annual Performance Index, or API, growth targets on a vast array of tests, including the California Standards Test and the California High School Exit Exam. That’s up from 45 percent in the 2006-07 school year, according to data released by the California Department of Education today.

The state’s API ranking — a number between a low of 200 and a high of 1,000, with a target goal of 800 — rewards schools with more points for moving students up from the lowest levels of test performance, state officials said. The federal goal, Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, under the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, focuses solely on whether or not students are scoring at grade-proficiency level on state assessments.

However, when the state’s progress is broken down by school level, it is revealed that only 46 percent of middle schools and 37 percent of high schools reached their targets, meaning more than half of those schools are still struggling to meet the standard. At the elementary school level, 59 percent of schools met the benchmarks.

“Overall, the results are encouraging, but we’re still not where we want to be,” said Jack O’Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, while touring Herbert Hoover Middle School on Wednesday.

Under NCLB, 100 percent of students must show proficiency on English and mathematics exams by 2014.

In order to reach that goal, the state has set benchmarks for each year for a certain percentage of students to be at grade proficiency or above.

In 2008, schools needed to have between 33.4 percent and 35.2 percent of students reaching proficiency levels on state tests, depending on the type of school, in order to meet their targets. In 2007, the required rate was lower, between 20.9 percent and 26.5 percent.

O’Connell said he was especially encouraged by the performance of black and Hispanic students, whose progress often lags behind that of their white and Asian peers — a phenomenon referred to as the “achievement gap.”

Black students statewide showed a 14 percent API gain, compared with 12 percent for Hispanics, 10 percent for whites and 14 percent for Asians, according to the California Department of Education.

“We have a very diverse, very challenging, very mobile student population,” O’Connell said. “The API indicates more clearly where the gaps are narrowing — but it is still unacceptably wide.”

Related stories

San Francisco API test scores

San Mateo County API test scores

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