Comparable Schools Ranking
- Subject: Comparable Schools Ranking
- From: George Sheridan <gsheridan@BOMUSD.EDCOE.K12.CA.US>
- Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 22:13:59 -0800
- Comments: To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
In California's Academic Performance Index (API) schools are ranked by test
scores from the top ten percent to the bottom ten percent in the state.
Last week the state released additional data, showing how the scores in
each school compare with the scores of the 100 most similar schools in
California. In this comparison, no more than 50% of schools can be above
The lead editorial in the Sacramento Bee for Sunday, January 21, seems to
suggest that, no matter how well (in absolute terms) their children's
school performed on the SAT-9 test, parents should be concerned if it
scored below the average of similar schools.
If the relative ranking of one school improves, the ranking of another
school must decrease in a zero-sum game. The number of winners must exactly
equal the number of losers. Thus the effect of this editorial and similar
exhortations to improve relative rankings is simply to increase anxiety and
to multiply the occasions for criticism of schools.
If the API numbers have any correlation to actual academic achievement,
then it is perhaps useful to see how students in one school perform
compared to students with similar backgrounds in a different school.
Significant differences might point to more effective programs or practices
in the higher-scoring school. In fact, however, it is no secret that the
test bears little relation to the academic standards the state says it
wants students to master. Thus a difference in scores sufficient to move a
school from "below average" to "above" (or vice versa) provides no
information at all about the effectiveness of the schools' programs. By
whipping up demand for higher scores, the Bee diverts attention from the
steps needed to make real improvements in the schools.
Questions for schools: API ranking system raises plenty
(Published Jan. 21, 2001)
California's fledgling Academic Performance Index (API) has come to mean
many different things to different people. It is dreaded by teachers,
principals and superintendents whose fates may hang in the rankings;
beloved by schools that get cash rewards for excelling on the Stanford 9
exam that determines those rankings; bemoaned by students who are pressured
to perform; loathed by educators who decry the index's reliance on a
single, limited test.
But by far the API's most useful role is that its two-part rankings enable
parents to begin asking informed questions about what their children are
getting, or not getting, from their public schools.
The first API ranking is a simple measure of how a school performed
compared to all schools statewide on a scale of one to 10, with 10
indicating that a school scored in the top 10 percent of schools statewide.
The second measure, the "similar schools ranking," indicates how well a
school performed within a comparison group of 100 schools with like
demographics (levels of poverty, mobility, English skills and parent
Taken together, the two parts of the API spur questions about schools that
appear to be underachieving -- why? -- and those that seem to be
overachieving compared to the norm for their demography. In this region,
here are a few obvious questions that need asking:
What is the North Sacramento School District doing right? This mostly
impoverished district has middling rankings when compared to schools
statewide, but nine of its 10 elementaries climb higher, some
significantly, when compared to schools with similar challenges of poverty,
student mobility, language barriers and low parent education levels.
Similarly, what formula has the Elk Grove Unified School District found to
keep its high-poverty schools performing above expectations?
In contrast, why do so many schools in Placer County seem to be
underperforming compared to other California schools that enjoy similar
affluence and homogenous student bodies? Of the 73 Placer elementary,
middle and high schools ranked in the API, only 24 performed above the
average of similar schools elsewhere in the state. Many dropped
dramatically in the similar-schools ranking.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin urged parents
whose schools appear to be underperforming to start making noise: "Anybody
who's in a 1-1 school [a 1 in the statewide ranking and a 1 in the similar
schools ranking] really ought to be raising a fuss. I would be. That's the
worst of the worst." But parents in 8-3 schools ought to be asking
questions just as pointed.
The schools, too, should use the API data to start asking questions of each
other. Does Elk Grove have something to teach Rocklin? Has North Sacramento
found a formula that might work for its underperforming neighbor, Del Paso
Heights School District? The answers may hold clues that could help
struggling schools get better, and keep overly smug schools from resting on
undeserved laurels. If the API can foster that, it will have done
California a good service.
To unsubscribe from the ARN-L list, send command SIGNOFF ARN-L
Post a Message to arn-l: