In 1999, California’s state leaders passed the Public Schools Accountability Act, creating the state’s accountability system, and led the nation in setting rigorous content standards for what all students must learn.
And in 2001, the reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), pushed California and the nation even further. A key purpose of NCLB is to close the achievement gaps between low-income students and students of color and their peers.
As a result, California’s schools currently answer to two accountability systems. However, even with multiple measures intent on holding schools accountable for preparing students for success in college and career, far too many schools across the state fail to execute this charge.
- The state accountability system, the Academic Performance Index (API), asks schools to make annual academic growth targets, until they reach a statewide goal. The API holds schools accountable for student achievement on the California Standardized Tests (CST) in math, English, science, and social science, in conjunction with results from the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). These scores are used to determine the Annual Performance Index (API) of each school and to rank and compare the performance of schools across the state. Schools are expected to make significant growth in performance on their API scores across all subgroups each year.
- The federal accountability system, Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), requires schools to meet annual benchmarks toward an ultimate goal of 100% of students scoring proficient or above in English and math by 2014. In addition, to make AYP, schools must test 95% of students, have an API of at least 650 or increase it by one point, and high schools are required to graduate at least 83.1% of students, or show improvement under specific formulas.
Polices providing guidance to schools must be rigorous, laden with high expectations, and resources necessary for academic success must be provided if we are truly to ratchet up education for our most vulnerable students and forever close the achievement gaps that plague our state.
To read the Education Trust-West’s published work on Accountability, please see below.