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Detailed Methodology

California's Definition of Persistently-Lowest Achieving Schools.

The identification of persistently lowest-achieving schools in California is a multi-step process that is informed by both federal and state law. The steps in identifying schools as persistently lowest-achieving are summarized below.

Step 1: Identifying the Pool of Schools

Per the School Improvement Grant (SIG) guidance developed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), two types of schools were required to be included in the pool of persistently lowest-achieving schools. Schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring had to be included in the pool and are classified as Tier I schools. In California, these are schools that were identified for Program Improvement (PI) during the 2009–10 school year. Also required to be included in the pool are middle and high schools that are eligible to receive federal Title I funds in 2009–10, but do not receive those funds. These schools are classified as Tier II schools per the SIG program.

The Pool of Eligible Schools data file located on the California Department of Education (CDE) Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools Web page includes all PI schools and all schools that are eligible to receive Title I funds in 2009–10 for a total of 4,692 schools (see table below).

Table A
Group Elementary Middle High Total
Number of PI Schools in 2009–10 1,688 603 445 2,736
Number of secondary schools eligible to receive Title I funds N/A 593 1,363 1,956
Total1 1,688 1,196 1,808 4,692

Per the federal guidance, Tier I schools must be receiving Title I funds in 2009–10 and Tier II schools must be eligible, but not receiving, Title I funds in 2009–10. In addition, Tier II schools must be part of a local educational agency (LEA) that receives Title I funds. The table below indicates the number of schools in the pool after excluding schools based on the funding criteria.

Table B
Group Elementary Middle High Total
Number of PI schools receiving Title I funds in 2009–10 (Tier I) 1,677 601 429 2,707
Number of secondary schools eligible but not receiving Title I funds (Tier II) N/A 292 657 949
Total 1,677 893 1,086 3,656
Step 2: Identifying Schools Based on Graduation Rates

Federal guidance requires that schools in the Tier I and Tier II pools be identified if the school's graduation rate is below 60 percent over a number of years.

For this identification process, California employed the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) four-year completer rate. California is approved to use this rate until four years of longitudinal data are available through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). More information about the NCES four-year completer rate can be found in the 2009 Adequate Yearly Progress Report Information Guide located on the CDE Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Web page.

The NCES four-year completer rate was evaluated for 3,656 schools in the Tier I and Tier II pools. To be consistent with the n-size approved in California's Consolidated State Application Accountability Workbook, only schools with 100 or more valid Academic Performance Index (API) scores in each of the last four years were included in the analysis. Five schools with graduation rates below 60 percent in each of the last four years (2004–05, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08) were included on the list (three high schools and one elementary [K-12] school in Tier I and one high school in Tier II).

The number of valid test scores for 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 can be obtained in the Pool of Eligible Schools data file located on the CDE Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools Web page.

Step 3: Identifying Five Percent of the Pool

To ensure that no one type of school is over-represented in the final list of persistently lowest-achieving schools and to facilitate systemic reform across the K-12 segment, the pool of schools was divided into five separate groups. The table below shows the number of schools in each group, excluding the five schools already identified based on the graduation rate criteria in Step 2, and identifies five percent of each group.

Table C
Group Number Five Percent
Tier I Elementary Schools 1,676 84
Tier I Middle Schools 601 30
Tier I High Schools 426 21
Subtotal Tier I 2,703 135
Tier II Middle Schools 292 15
Tier II High Schools 656 33
Subtotal Tier II 948 48
Total 3,651 183
Step 4: Evaluating Academic Progress and Performance

The 3,651 schools were then evaluated on their academic progress on the state’s API. Schools that gained a net of 50 points or more over the last five years or met the statewide goal of 800 during the 2008–09 school year were deemed to have shown significant academic progress and did not continue in the analysis.

To calculate the growth measure, the API growth value (i.e., the difference between the Growth API score and the Base API score that is shown on each school’s Growth API report) is summed for the last five years 2004–05, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09. If this sum is at least 50 points the school does not continue in the analysis. Schools with fewer than five years of data received a growth value based on the data available. For example, if a school had three years of API data, the sum of the three years had to be at least 50 points for the school to meet the progress criteria. The growth data can be obtained in the Pool of Eligible Schools data file. The data file is located on the CDE Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools Web page.  

The table below indicates the number of schools that did not continue in the analysis as a result of demonstrating significant academic progress.

Table D
Group Number in Pool Number with API Growth of 50 Points or More or Growth API of 800 or Higher Number Remaining in Analysis
Tier I Elementary Schools 1,676 1,053 623
Tier I Middle Schools 601 372 229
Tier I High Schools 426 227 199
Tier II Middle Schools 292 170 122
Tier II High Schools 656 313 343
Total 3,651 2,135 1,516
Step 5: Computing the Three-Year Average Proficiency Rate

To identify which schools are the lowest achieving in each of the five groups, a three-year average proficiency rate for English-language arts (ELA) and mathematics was computed for all schools.

The number of students who scored proficient or above in ELA and mathematics as shown on the AYP reports in the "Schoolwide" group was summed across 2007, 2008, and 2009. That number was then divided by the number of valid scores from the AYP reports in the "Schoolwide" group over the same time period to produce a three-year average proficiency rate (see formula below).

2007 ELA number of students proficient or above + 2008 ELA number of students proficient or above +
2009 ELA number of students proficient or above + 2007 math number of students proficient or above +
2008 math number of students proficient or above + 2009 math number of students proficient or above
Divided by
2007 ELA number of valid scores + 2008 ELA number of valid scores + 2009 ELA number of valid scores + 2007 math number of valid scores + 2008 math number of valid scores + 2009 math number of scores

The three-year average proficiency rates may be obtained from the Pool of Eligible Schools data file. The data file is located on the CDE Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools Web page.

Step 6: The Three-Year Average Proficiency Rate

Schools continuing in the analysis had to have a valid three-year average proficiency rate (at least one valid test score in ELA or math). The table below shows how many schools did not continue in the analysis because they did not have a valid three-year average proficiency rate.

Table E
Group Number Continuing in Analysis Number Without a Valid Three-Year Average Proficiency Rate Number Remaining in Analysis
Tier I Elementary Schools 623 9 614
Tier I Middle Schools 229 0 229
Tier I High Schools 199 4 195
Tier II Middle Schools 122 1 121
Tier II High Schools 343 30 313
Total 1,516 44 1,472
Step 7: Applying Exclusions

Before selecting the five percent of schools in each of the five groups as specified in Step 3, school size is evaluated. Consistent with the n-size rules for the state’s API system and for AYP determinations, schools with fewer than 100 valid test scores in any of the three years evaluated (2007, 2008, or 2009) are excluded. Valid scores refer to the number of students continuously enrolled for a full academic year as defined in California's Consolidated State Application Accountability Workbook. (Note: California has applied for a waiver to include a "minimum n" as part of the criteria for identifying persistently lowest-achieving schools.) No other exclusions were made.

Valid test scores were based on the number of valid test scores reported for AYP determinations and may be obtained from the data file located on the CDE Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools Web page.

Table F
Group Number Continuing in Analysis Number With Less than 100 Valid Scores in Any of the Three Years Number Remaining in Analysis
Tier I Elementary Schools 614 34 580
Tier I Middle schools 229 15 214
Tier I High Schools 195 103 92
Tier II Middle Schools 121 46 75
Tier II High Schools 313 228 85
Total 1,472 426 1,046
Step 8: Identifying Schools Based on Academic Performance

Schools within each of the five groups were then sorted from lowest to highest on the three-year average proficiency rate. Individual schools were identified as lowest achieving until the five percent figure was reached. For example, within the "Tier I Elementary Schools" group, the school with the lowest three-year average proficiency rate was identified first, followed by the school with the second lowest three-year average proficiency rate, and so on, until the figure representing five percent was reached.

However, on March 11, 2010, the State Board of Education (SBE) approved the submittal of a wavier to the ED that redefines the Tier II pool. The waiver allows middle and high schools in the Tier I pool that were not identified as persistently lowest achieving to be included in the Tier II pool. Once schools in the Tier I pool were identified as persistently lowest achieving, the remaining Tier I middle and high schools were moved into the Tier II pool. The Tier II pool was re-sorted based on the three-year average proficiency rate from lowest to highest and 48 schools were identified as persistently lowest achieving (48 is the five percent target identified in Step 3). Moving the PI middle and high schools into the Tier II pool resulted in the identification of 37 PI schools and 11 non-Title I schools being identified as Tier II persistently lowest-achieving schools.

Step 9: Completing the List of Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools

The final step in creating the Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools list was to combine the schools identified because of the graduation rate criteria with the schools identified because of the academic performance criteria.

Step 10: Completing the List of Tier III Schools

All PI schools receiving Title I funds in 2009–10 and not identified as persistently lowest-achieving were identified as Tier III schools. In addition, middle and high schools identified in the initial pool of Tier II schools (i.e., in Title I funded districts where the school was eligible to receive Title I funds in 2009–10, but did not receive those funds) were placed in Tier III if they:

Tier III schools are not considered persistently lowest-achieving, but are eligible to receive SIG funds per the guidance developed by the ED.


Footnote:

1 Schools that were closed in the 2009–10 school year were not included in the pool.

Questions:   Analysis, Measurement, and Accountability Reporting Division | 916-319-0869
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