This update to the Academic Program Survey (APS) reflects some changes to the landscape for school accountability in California. In September, 2012, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1246, which dismissed the requirement for local educational agencies (LEAs) to solely adopt textbooks and instructional materials adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE), and allowed the use of locally-adopted, standards-aligned materials. This law went into effect on January 1, 2013. Additionally, the transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will entail new instructional practices and the eventual adoption of new materials when they become available and when budgetary considerations make purchase of such materials possible. As a result, the Academic Program Survey (APS) has been updated to reflect the flexibility for locally-adopted, standards-aligned materials in English/language arts and mathematics. This change also supports schools and districts as they transition to the CCSS.
The APS is designed to help a school analyze the extent to which it is providing a coherent instructional program to support improved student achievement. The APS is to be used in conjunction with the District Assistance Survey (DAS), English Learner Subgroup Self-Assessment (ELSSA), and Inventory of Services and Supports (ISS) for school and district analyses whenever appropriate. Organized into three grade-span specific surveys, each APS measures the presence of the nine Essential Program Components (EPCs) associated with improved student learning.In sum, the following changes have been made to the Essential Program Components (EPCs):
- For EPC 1 (Instructional Materials) in English/language arts (ELA), most references to SBE-adopted instructional materials have been replaced with “locally-adopted, standards-aligned” materials. Also, the EPC includes the option of adopting Common Core State Standards (CCSS)-aligned instructional materials.
- EPC 1 (Instructional Materials) for reading and mathematics strategic interventions has been revised to align with the recommendations of the academic content frameworks, which do not require that these services occur during the school day.
- EPC 1 (Instructional Materials) for mathematics has been revised by the Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Support division to allow for the transition from the current framework to the CCSS.
- EPC 1 (Instructional Materials) for mathematics interventions in grades 8 and 9, Algebra I, has been revised to reflect the CCSS for grade 8 mathematics.
- EPC 2 (Instructional Time) for time allocations has been aligned to the suggested recommendations in the frameworks.
- EPC 3 (Pacing Guides) has been simplified and refined to reflect increasing flexibility for the district.
- EPC 4 (Administrator Training) has been expanded to include training in implementation of the CCSS.
- EPC 5 (Teacher Professional Development) includes training in implementation of the CCSS.
- EPC 6 (Support for Teachers) also includes training in implementation of the CCSS.
- EPC 7 (Data Monitoring System) has minor adjustments to align with the legislation.
- EPC 8 (Teacher Collaboration) has a syntactical edit.
- EPC 9 (Fiscal Support) has no changes.
These updates to the EPCs are intended to assist schools and districts to focus improvement efforts on systemic implementation of best practices and to support increased achievement among the student groups that failed to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress goals.
Use of the APS
The APS is completed by all school staff working in grade level teams or departments, including the principal, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders and any external support providers working with the school. Ideally, the responses to an APS are discussed by those completing the survey, as well as with site/district staff.As EPC implementation levels are identified, the school and district determine needed actions for alignment with the Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA) and dedicate resources to its full implementation. Although EPCs one, two, and three are foundational to the implementation of the other EPCs, they all function as a system with all nine EPCs documented as part of a “nested system” for school support and strengthening of the instructional program.
Context for School Improvement: High Quality First Instruction
All students in California are provided with a rigorous academic program. Currently, the SBE-adopted content standards and standards-aligned grades K–12 core instructional materials are the foundation of that program. Over time, as California implements the Common Core State Standards with associated Frameworks, instructional materials adoption and professional development, these components will be used to revise expectations for teaching and learning and associated tools.The curriculum is supported by high quality first instruction, based on teacher knowledge of the standards, subject-matter pedagogy, and an ability to engage students in rigorous learning. The use of formative assessments informs teaching and learning, assesses student progress, and identifies students in need of differentiated benchmark, strategic, and intensive support. Summative and formative assessments and corresponding placement criteria are also critical to determine the level of English Language Development (ELD) support needed for English Learners and for potential special education placement. However, all of these decisions begin with high quality first instruction to meet student needs. LEAs advance this effort by the judicious allocation of general and categorical funds. This means that districts ensure that resources are allocated through a process that recognizes the needs of the lowest performing schools first, and that teachers and administrators receive ongoing professional development in scientifically based instructional strategies.
A Sound Multi-tiered Intervention Program for Students in Need
A highly responsive, multi-tiered instructional intervention system in every school and district is essential to identify students before they are in serious academic difficulty and to address their identified learning needs. Successful schools set daily instructional priorities that focus on key standards, skills development, comprehensible instruction, and opportunities for student practice. Strategic interventions that supplement the core instruction are provided to students who are not achieving grade-level standards. Strategic support, in the form of additional classes or within-class work, is appropriate for students working below grade level but less than two years from standard. Intensive interventions are designed for those students performing significantly below standards and are intended to accelerate a student’s rate of learning by increasing the frequency and duration of their instruction to promote them to achieve grade-level standards.
At the secondary level, this multi-tiered system includes intensive support accommodated by the master schedule for any student, including intensive ELs and students with disabilities in English language arts not meeting sixth grade standards and in mathematics not meeting seventh grade standards. Students who are working on an individualized educational program (IEP) are also considered for intensive intervention, if supported by their IEP. ELs are regularly monitored for ELD needs, receive extended instructional time and increased opportunities to practice oral language and to engage with academic and content vocabulary. Data use is central to an effective intervention program so that students, parents and students’ teachers are knowledgeable about student achievement and can help promote a sense of urgency about moving students through intervention quickly in order to access the core grade level curriculum. Collaboration among EL educators, special education teachers, and general education teachers establishes a vital link to ensure coherence of program for these learners.
Parent and Community Involvement
All schools and districts are required to involve parents in student learning. While this is a requirement for schools and districts in Program Improvement under Title I and Title III, involving parents and community partners often and early to help support individual students and to collectively help close the achievement gap between those who are meeting standards and those who are not is critical to student success.
Limitations on Use of the APS
The data derived from the APS are intended to be used as a catalyst for conversations about school improvement and to identify specific structures and supports where schools need to invest resources. Survey results may be limited by the experience and/or knowledge of stakeholders using the tool.