API numbers out, pressure on for teachers

May 13, 2010 6:02:36 PM PDT
School districts in California learned they have to improve students' performance scores -- in spite of massive budget cuts and teacher layoffs.

Schools in California were given their new API growth targets for next year. This means your child's school must reach a certain score and level in reading and math. Teachers say it puts even more pressure on them when class sizes are increasing.

Academically, Kitayama Elementary in Union City ranked higher this year -- eight out of a possible 10.

This is how they did it:

  • They implemented a writers workshop, once a day -- because the idea is that good writers make good readers
  • Teachers work together to plan their lessons
  • Students are tested three times a year

"To look at students who might need a little extra support and help and then we provide interventions during the day and/or after school to help get those students who need a little extra help, more help," says principal Lisa Metzinger.

When the kids took the yearly STAR test, the Academic Performance Index (API) report showed they scored higher than in previous years.

As it does every May, the state set an even higher target growth for them and for every school in California. This happened despite the budget cuts that have forced districts to lay off teachers and increase class sizes.

"Our teachers, right now, the only way they can accomplish this kind of growth is by a lot of individualized instruction. To add five or 10 more children to the classroom without any extra resources, and in fact less resources -- impossible," says Charmaine Kawaguchi from the New Haven Teachers Association.

Class sizes in the New Haven Unified School District will go up from 20 students for every teacher to 25, to even 30 students per teacher.

Students in underperforming schools are expected to continue falling through the cracks.

Arun Ramanathan is with Education Trust-West, an advocacy group. He believes, now more than ever, California desperately needs new reforms in the classroom which include evaluating teachers.

"And what we like them to do is place the highest needs students with the best teachers," says Ramanathan. "What the essence of it is, is we've got to have a better way of telling what a quality teacher is than just how long they've been in a school system."

Speaking of reforms, California will participate in phase two of the federal "Race To the Top" program. This means California will compete with other states for a share of $700 million in federal dollars. The money will be awarded to those states that come up with a good solid reform plan.


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