Release of the 2008 Academic Performance Index (API) and Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) data was announced Thursday, September 4th, by Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District interim superintendent Tim Cuneo.

The 2008 data show gains, with the overall district index growing 12 points, reaching a new high of 831.

Cuneo attributes this increase in achievement to the dedication and hard work of teachers, principals and support staff, as well as to the strong parent and community support.

“After surpassing the state’s high water mark of 800 in 2005, Santa Monica-Malibu teachers, administrators and staff have continued to work diligently for continuous improvement of all students,” he said.

The Academic Performance Index is the cornerstone of California’s Public Schools Accountability Act. Its purpose is to measure the academic performance and growth of schools.

The numeric index ranges from a minimum of 200 to a high of 1000.

The statewide target for all schools is 800. The Academic Performance Index summarizes the results of various indicators, including the California Standards Tests (CSTs), the CAT/6 norm-referenced test, and the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE).

The Academic Performance Index is reported for the district as a whole, as well as for numerically significant groups of students. In Santa Monica-Malibu, these groups are identified as African American, Asian, Latino, and white students, as well as economically disadvantaged students, English learners and students with disabilities.

Evidence from the 2008 Academic Performance Index reveals a narrowing of the achievement gap over the past five years, specifically for Latinos and economically disadvantaged students, district officials said.

“Much of our work continues to focus on all of our students, in particular the students with the greatest needs,” said Dr. Sally Chou, the district’s chief academic officer, concerning the district’s efforts to close the achievement gap. “This includes professional development for our teachers and principals, as well as academic intervention and support services to students who have yet to reach proficiency.

“We continue to implement our districtwide benchmark assessments to help us with timely evaluation of our work.”

Eleven of the 14 schools that use Academic Performance Indexes in the district demonstrated growth in 2008, with seven sites making double-digit gains from 2007.

Most notably, Will Rogers Learning Community and John Adams Middle School grew by 35 and 36 points, respectively.

“This impressive growth is the result of our highly qualified teachers, our tireless effort to recruit the best for our students, our focus on aligning curriculum and instruction to state standards and the implementation of instructional strategies to meet the needs of all learners,” said Mike Matthews, assistant superintendent for Human Resources.

All of the district’s kindergarten-through-fifth-grade elementary schools have now surpassed the state’s target of 800, with four schools — Franklin Elementary, Point Dume Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary, and Webster Elementary — scoring above 900. Further, all schools demonstrate long-term growth over the past five years, officials note.

In addition to the continued growth in the Academic Performance Index, the school district has met its Annual Yearly Progress targets for the federal accountability system of “No Child Left Behind” (The Elementary and Seconday Education Act).

The federal requirements measure the academic success of a school or district according to how well it meets common performance targets.

This measure of success is reported in terms of Annual Yearly Progress criteria. A school or district must meet criteria in four areas in order to achieve Annual Yearly Progress.

The following criteria must be met, not only for the school as a whole, but also for numerically significant groups of students, including ethnic groups, economically disadvantaged students, English learners and students with disabilities:

n participation rate of 95 percent or greater for the state test results used to establish the percentage of students at the proficient level or above;

n percentage of students who score proficient or above in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics, as compared to Annual Measurable Objectives set by the state;

n growth in the Academic Performance Index of at least one point or a minimum API score of 620; and

n a graduation rate of at least 82.9 or improvement in the graduation rate of at least 0.1 or improvement in the graduation rate average over two years of at least 0.2.

SMASH (Santa Monica Alternative School House), the district’s small alternative kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school campus, continues to receive a relatively large number of parent requests to opt their children out of the testing program, thus resulting in lower participation rates than required by No Child Left Behind (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) guidelines for Annual Yearly Progress.

John Adams Middle School missed its Annual Yearly Progress goals in mathematics for two groups of students — African American students and English learners.

Due to an error in the data file uploaded to the state prior to testing, students’ disability status was not coded properly for all students.

Though individual students received accurate scores, this particular group’s aggregate report will be re-released after the data correction is submitted to the state.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Educational Services Department will continue to use the newly released Academic Performance Index and Annual Yearly Progress information along with local assessment data throughout the fall as it plans for staff development, curriculum alignment and additional support to school sites in order to continue and accelerate this trajectory of achievement, district officials say.