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“A step in the right direction”

New law de-emphasizes standardized testing

Staff Writer

BARSTOW• The California-based Academic Performance Index (API) has been oft-criticized since its inception in 1999 for its overreliance on standardized testing as a barometer for student achievement.

A new law that went into effect Tuesday will de-emphasize standardized testing while factoring in other elements and provide superintendents more local control in measuring school and student success.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Jeff Malan, superintendent of the Barstow Unified School District.

Under the new law, Malan will have until Oct. 1 to develop and implement a school quality review program to coincide with the API, which he said he planned to have completed by the beginning of the next school year, at latest.

“We will gather key people — our teaching staff, our administration, our core folks — that we will work with in complimenting the API,” he said.

Localizing processes in determining academic progress is at the heart of the matter for a system that uses a panoptic measuring stick for all students, who Malan said “may progress at different levels than other students.”

The new law will allow factors such as graduation rates and college-going rates to be added to the evaluation process.

Still, the API — which is unique to California and different than the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) — is not as simple as its bottom-line scoring system would indicate.

“There is no cookie-cutter way of looking at this,” Malan said. “We have unique needs; there is no specific formula.”

In 2012, the average API score for the BUSD was 750, higher than the county’s 729 and lower than the state’s 788, according to the California Department of Education’s 2012 Growth API Report.

Skyline North Elementary scored highest of all schools in the BUSD with 880, while Barstow High scored lowest at 696, an improvement of 22 points from 2011. Eight-hundred is the bar set by the state.

“We want all of our students to progress toward state standards,” Malan said, “but we have to recognize they’re all not going to progress at the same rate.”

He noted that the district hasn’t wholly tackled the new implications of the law yet, but will closely look at it in the coming months to identify the best method for creating school quality reviews deemed appropriate for Barstow.

“We at the local level can best implement a plan that can allow students to reach that rate,” he said, when discussing one of the law’s advantages. “We are the best determining factor of that, I believe.”

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