Some Berkeley school board members expressed concern that Berkeley High School (BHS) did not meet the benchmark for the 2007 Academic Performance Index (API) scores.
Berkeley Unified School District’s API for 2006-07 was 747, five points less than the previous year. Ranging from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000, the API reflects a school’s or district’s performance level based on the results of statewide testing. The statewide API performance level goal for all schools is 800.
This year’s performance index was based on scores from 6,017 students, a participation rate of approximately 97 percent for elementary and middle schools and 84 percent for high school students.
According to a report from Neil Smith, assistant superintendent of BUSD educational services, and P.J. Hallam, director of assessment, evaluation and research, Berkeley High’s California standardized testing participation rates had decreased in 2006-07 in spite of efforts to increase student participation.
The report states that adequate participation rates for testing varied by group over the past three years.
While African Americans and socioeconomically disadvantaged student did not reach adequate paricipation percentages in 2005 and 2006, Latino and white student subgroups did.
In 2007, none of the groups met participation rates.
School board vice president John Selaw-sky expressed concern at this trend. “I don’t know how we are going to keep track of that,” he said.
“We need to work harder to make progress throughout the year in subgroups,” said board president Joaquin Rivera. “Schools which have been more successful than the others need to share their methods with others.”
Berkeley High principal Jim Slemp told the Planet Wednesday that California was the only state in the nation that permitted parents to opt out of the state required testing.
“The federal No Child Left Behind law says we are rated by how well the kids do in the state test and you have to have 95 percent of the kids take the test,” he said. “However, state law says that we have to let parents and kids know that they aren’t required to take the test. Why would anyone smart enough want to spend four mornings sitting for tests? It puts us in a lose-lose situation. It’s the law that makes it happen.”
According to Smith and Hallam’s report, the law creates a “fundamental dilemma for a school system when they are penalized for not meeting federal criteria and are equally obligated to inform parents of their right to opt out of testing.”
“We have 99 percent participation in the state exit exam,” Slemp said. “The API doesn’t count for anything. It just checks how schools are doing all over. If you look at SAT and exit exam scores Berkeley High is doing a great job ... The way the law works doesn’t work for us.”
The board discussed the possibility of a Berkeley API which would put together different assessments and look at the progress or lack of progress in schools.
“The overarching note is that all our school sites show progress from 1999, when the test first started,” said Selawsky. “However, it’s surprising that progress of African Americans in King Middle School is flat.”
Board member Karen Hemphill said that she expected King students to improve.
“I think we are optimistic that principal Jason Lustig’s experience at Cragmont Elementary School will help transfer the results to King,” said Superintendent Michele Lawrence.
Justig took over as principal of Martin Luther King Jr. School in fall.