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Berkeley schools fail state goals

By David Scharfenberg
Friday October 18, 2002


Twelve of Berkeley’s 16 public schools scored higher on the state’s Academic Performance Index (API) standardized testing system last year than they did the previous year, according to California Department of Education data released Thursday. But only four schools, or 25 percent, met growth targets laid out by the state. 

By contrast, nearly 70 percent of schools across the state improved their API results and 53 percent met growth targets. 

The four Berkeley schools that met growth targets were Emerson Elementary, LeConte Elementary, Oxford Elementary and Berkeley Arts Magnet Elementary. 

Three of the four would be eligible for state financial rewards in a normal year but this year the state legislature, faced with a $24 billion budget shortfall, cut funding for the awards program. 

The schools that did not meet targets face no immediate state sanctions, but some schools may face federal sanctions. (See adjacent story.) 

The number of Berkeley schools reaching growth targets – for the overall school as well as for racial subgroups and the economically-disadvantaged – has steadily declined since 2000, when the API growth measures first went into effect. 

In 2000, 12 of 15 Berkeley schools met targets. In 2001, 5 of 16 hit the mark. The decline matches a statewide drop-off and Berkeley Board of Education member Ted Schultz said he was not surprised by the latest results. 

“Early on, a lot of schools were making their targets more easily because the obvious stuff was put in place,” he said. “It’s not surprising that there’s not as much improvement as in previous years.” 

The API combines results from a nationwide test, the SAT-9, and the California Standards Test in English Language Arts, tailored to California-specific curriculum standards. New tests, like the California High School Exit Exam, will be added to the API next year. 

Each school receives a score ranging from 200 to 1,000, with a statewide goal of 800. Each year, to reach its growth target, a school must increase its API score for the whole school, the economically-disadvantaged and any numerically-significant racial subgroups. 

Specifically, a school as a whole must improve its score by 5 percent of the difference between its previous API and the state target of 800. The racial and economically-disadvantaged subgroups must improve scores by at least 80 percent of the overall goal for a school. 

Eight Berkeley schools, including Berkeley High School and the now-defunct City of Franklin Elementary, improved their API scores but did not make all their targets. 

Four schools – Cragmont Elementary, Malcolm X Elementary, Longfellow Middle School and Willard Middle School – saw their API scores dip. 

Emerson Elementary is the only Berkeley school that has reached the statewide goal of an 800 score. Statewide, 20 percent of schools scored at 800 or higher last year.