A report released today shows more California schools are meeting state education goals, but the percentage of schools meeting federal education standards fell slightly.

The state’s 2008-2009 Accountability Progress Report includes results of both California’s accountability standards, called the Academic Performance Index, and federal accountability program, measuring Adequate Yearly Progress.

Both systems make their calculations based on the California High School Exit Exam and Standardized Testing and Reporting, or STAR, results.

The state index ranges from 200 to 1,000 points, with a target score of 800. The report showed that 42 percent of all schools, 6 percentage points more than last year, meet or exceed that 800-point marker, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said at a news conference this morning. This includes 48 percent of elementary schools, 36 percent of middle schools and 21 percent of high schools.

The 2009 API numbers mark the seventh consecutive year of improvement, he said.

However, the number of California schools meeting federal AYP standards fell 1 percent, to 51 percent of schools in the state, he said.

“We can attribute much of this to the fact that the bar has risen significantly,” he said of the 1-percent drop.

As part of the No Child Left Behind Act, the percentage of students who must test at proficient or higher to meet federal standards goes up each year.

O’Connell likened the state API index to a long jump, measuring progress from year to year. The federal AYP system, he said, is more like a high jump – either you clear the bar, or you don’t. That bar also gets raised each year, he said.

While O’Connell said each report offers a particular snapshot of schools’ progress, “the two systems can often send conflicting, even contradictory messages.”

The state’s top schools official also expressed optimism about state API numbers for African American and Hispanic students, which jumped between 11 and 15 points.

However, these students’ scores continue to lag behind those of their white and Asian counterparts, he said. The API of white students increased by 14 percentage points.
O’Connell called the improvement modest and incremental, but said “we’re no longer seeing a widening of the achievement gap, which candidly we’d seen for some 30 years.”

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