California: New regulations require schools to make measurable progress toward closing the gap between whites and lower-achieving minority students
Superior Elementary in Chatsworth, as its name implies, is anything but deficient, with a state ranking that far surpasses the state's measure of success.
But under new state rules, the school could go from A+ to F in a hurry. The regulations require schools to make measurable progress toward closing the gap between whites and lower-achieving minority students. And the scores of its students learning English aren't rising fast enough.
Superior is not alone.
The same fate likely awaits other campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The schools met their improvement goals for 2006 but would not have under the 2007 rules.
"It's going to be more challenging for schools to reach their growth target," said state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. But "closing the achievement gap is not only an economic imperative, but a moral imperative."
The state's primary measure of success is the Academic Performance Index, which grades schools on a scale from 200 to 1,000 based on student test scores in math, English and other subjects. Schools are required to meet annual improvement targets. Minorities, the poor, the disabled and other groups also have to improve, but until this year, the achievement gap could widen even while a school received credit for getting better.
The state's push is in concert with national efforts under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which has its own ever-increasing requirements for closing the achievement gap.
Some critics view the state's increased attention to the achievement gap as long overdue or even insufficient. Others worry that more and more schools will be unfairly branded as failures.
Superior Street Elementary has surpassed the state's API target score of 800. It's edging close to 875 — the score a school would earn if every student tested as "proficient." Even its English learners are flying high by district standards, but starting next year, they'll have to do better. They must improve either by five points or 5% of the difference between their score and 800, whichever is more.
Or, put another way, the achievement gap must begin to close or a school won't make its annual improvement targets.
If it was the schools' fault then wouldn't all the students be performing poorly instead of just the minority ones?