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Friday, September 23, 2011

Sonoma County School Accountability Report

State releases 2010-11 school accountability report

State accountability data released in Sacramento today show that Sonoma County schools have continued to realize gains in academic achievement, moving up eight points on the Academic Performance Index (API) scale for the 2010-11 school year. The county’s API Growth score now stands at 787, which is nine points higher than the state average.

The state as a whole posted an API score of 778 in today’s report. This is the ninth year in a row of statewide academic improvement.

The API is a numeric index that ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1000. All schools in California are striving to attain a performance target of 800 by improving instruction and achievement on a year-by-year basis.

54 percent of schools at or above state target. With this report, 54 percent of Sonoma County schools have reached or exceeded the state API target of 800, which is the same percentage as last year. Statewide, 49 percent of schools are at or above 800, so the county remains above California averages.

A majority of Sonoma County schools (60 percent) were successful in raising their API scores this year, while 52 percent met all of their growth targets. Schools must advance academic performance schoolwide and show improvement in all student subgroups to get a positive result on the API.

The percentage of Sonoma County schools increasing their API score and meeting growth targets is down from 2010. Local educators contribute this change to a variety of related factors, including budget cuts, reduced staffing, and fewer program intervention options for students in need of additional instruction.

“Schools and districts are experiencing multiple changes as a result of the financial crisis,” says Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools Steve Herrington. “The safety net we worked so hard to put in place—before- and after-school programs, additional support and interventions, professional development for teachers, smaller class sizes—is gone. That said, I have to applaud school personnel for their hard work and dedication. Sonoma County teachers and their students have shown that learning continues even in difficult budgetary times.”

Fewer schools meet federal criteria. In contrast to the state’s API system, which recognizes growth and improvement across all levels, the federal portion of today’s school accountability report focuses solely on the number of students who test proficient or above on the state standards. The federal system “raises the bar” annually, this year requiring that 66 to 68 percent of all students attain proficiency in English-language arts and mathematics. This is an 11 percent increase over last year’s criteria. Schools must meet this proficiency level both on a schoolwide basis and for all student subgroups, including subgroups comprised of students who are learning English, students with disabilities, and students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

“We are seeing fewer local schools progress on the federal measures due to the steep rise in performance expectations,” explains Nancy Brownell, assistant superintendent at the Sonoma County Office of Education. “Increasing proficiency rates by 10 to 11 percent a year is a very tough challenge.”

Just 32 percent of Sonoma County elementary schools satisfied the federal criteria this year, compared to 43 percent last year. Thirty percent of middle schools and 48 percent of high schools met all AYP criteria, compared to 42 and 45 percent last year.

For schools that receive federal Title I funding for low-income students, not meeting the criteria brings consequences. These schools are required to implement a five-year timeline of intervention activities designed to improve academic performance. This year, 19 new schools entered this intervention program, raising the total of Sonoma County schools in Program Improvement to 53.

“Schools all across California are struggling to satisfy the federal criteria and its rising expectation for all students to reach proficiency,” says Superintendent Herrington. Last week, California has applied to the U.S. Department of Education for relief from the requirements of the federal accountability system and a freezing of the sanctions. A decision on the waiver request is pending.

More information about the state and federal accountability reports can be found at the California Department of Education website,

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