From L.A. Daily News by Rob Kuznia:
Real estate agents use them to tout the desirability of neighborhoods. Parents monitor them to choose schools. Principals live and die by them. And newspapers publish them as a service to readers.

But Academic Performance Index scores, the cornerstone of the states accountability system in K-12 education, are expected to take a two-year sabbatical beginning this year. And when the API scores return assuming they do theyll be a markedly different beast. What form they will take is a big unknown.

This could come as a rude awakening to the California public, which has become almost as familiar with the term API as Americans have long been with acronyms like GPA and P.E.

The general public and parents and even the Realtors they have no idea, said Bill Lucia, executive director of the education advocacy group EdVoice. People are going to be very confused.

The change also promises to be challenging for educators.

Im really leaning on my department chairs to make sure instruction continues to be challenging, said Mitzi Cress, principal of the high-performing Palos Verdes Peninsula High. But the fear is not knowing. Its a bit like being blind youre moving forward and you think youre doing well ... but you never know until those test scores come out and now we dont have that.

Assigned to schools every fall (usually in late August) based on the performance of students on a handful of springtime tests, the API boils the academic performance of entire schools to a three-digit number ranging from 200 to 1,000. In a sense, its the equivalent of an A-through-F letter grade for any given school, inviting easy comparisons between and among schools, with the state-set goal of 800 amounting to a B, and anything above 900 in elite territory.

Thats about to change.

The whole rating system based on performance of the California Standards Tests, and the scaling system based on 800 that is history, said Michael Kirst, a professor emeritus at Stanford University and the president of the California State Board of Education. So the real estate agents will have to get into some new concepts.

Kirst acknowledges that it isnt yet known what the API will look like or even if there will be an API on the other side of the two-year break.

Why the murkiness? Put simply, the California public school system is awash in historic reforms from the curricula that must be taught and tested to the way schools are funded and state policymakers havent gotten around to deciding whether the API in its current (or any) iteration should remain the benchmark for success.

The whole world has just changed, Kirst said. Figuring out accountability with this is something that the board has to do by 2015.

He added that the changes in education are so vast that it is impossible for the board to address them all simultaneously.

Theres just so much new policy its mind-boggling, he said. You have to approach it one conceptual domain at a time.

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