Indicator PR.8.c School academic performance

Descriptive Title: Academic performance and size of San Francisco public schools

Why Is This An Indicator Of Health and Sustainability?

The Academic Performance Index (API) is a single number, ranging from a low of 200 to a high of 1000, which reflects a school’s, an LEA’s, or a subgroup’s performance level, based on the results of statewide testing (an LEA is a school district or county office of education). Its purpose is to measure the academic performance and growth of schools. The API was established by the California Public Schools Accountability Act (PSAA), which in 1999 created a new academic accountability system for K-12 public education in California. The state defined target is an API of 800 or more. For more information on the API score, please consult the CA Department of Education's Academic Performance Index website at:

The API is one of multiple indicators of school quality. Academic performance is related to educational achievement, which both predicts positive health outcomes directly as well as the effects of education on lifetime earnings.a Educational achievement and student performance have been associated with each of the following aspects of the physical school environment: air quality, temperature, lighting, acoustics, building age/quality, school size and class size.b Additionally, a study using data from the California Healthy Kids Survey found that as the percentage of students who perceived high levels of caring relationships, high expectations, and opportunities for meaningful participation at their school increased, so did API. School safety was also significantly related to API.c


School addresses were obtained from the San Francisco Unified School District. School addresses were geocoded and mapped as points. The size of the points was scaled relative to the size of the school, while the color of the point was selected to depict the school’s API score.

The weighted average API score for neighborhoods was calculated by multiplying the number of students enrolled in each school by the school’s API score and summing those products for each neighborhood. This sum was then divided by the total number of students enrolled in public schools in each neighborhood. The formula is as follows:

Neighborhood Average Weighted API Score = (E1xAPI1 + E2xAPI2 + E3xAPI3 + …) / (E1+E2+E3+…)

E = 2010-2011 school enrollment

API = 2010 school API

Three SFUSD schools, Rooftop Alternative Elementary, Bessie Carmichael Elementary, and Claire Lilienthal K-8 schools are each located on two separate campuses.  Specifically, the Burnett campus of Rooftop Elementary serves grades K-4 and grades 5-8 of Rooftop are located on the Corbett campus; the Madison campus of Claire Lilienthal serves K-2 and the Scott campus of Lilienthal serves 3-8; and the Seventh Street campus of Bessie Carmichael serves K-5 and the Harrison campus serves 6-8.  However the academic profile and standardized testing scores are reported as though there is only one school on one campus.  Because SFDPH is calculating API scores by planning neighborhood district, the campuses were counted as separate schools with the same API score.  SFDPH used 2010-2011 school enrollment data by grade (from the CA Dept of Education) to calculate the number of students on each campus.

As of November 2011, 113 of the 115 SFUSD schools were included in neighborhood API score calculations.  The two schools not included were: Five Keys Charter School, which is a school with the Sheriff's office to help prisoner students develop educational skills and Newcomer High School, which serves as a one year transition high school for recent immigrants and refugees learning English.  Both schools are intended as transition schools and although they have started reporting API scores, the schools try to not evaluate students using standardized testing.


Many other factors affect school quality in addition to academic performance. Additional measures of quality could include: availability of books, supplies and other resources; physical and social structures of the school; actual and perceived safety at the schools; proximity to green space; training and experience of teachers and staff; involvement of parents in children’s education; opportunities for extracurricular activities; whether the school is used as a multi-use facility in the afternoons, evenings and weekends; and existence of afterschool programs. Thus it is important to recognize that academic performance is just one of many possible indicators to assess school environment.

Similar to many other urban areas, San Francisco public schools face the challenge of trying to create a high quality, integrated academic environment that compensates for existing racial, ethnic, and economic segregation by neighborhood. The education-related indicators in Objective PI.2 seek to illustrate these tensions/tradeoffs by providing multiple different indicators affecting the accessibility and quality of educational facilities in San Francisco. One measure alone cannot capture the complexity of student achievement or the various push and pull factors causing children and families to leave or move to San Francisco. Therefore, educational achievement and performance must be considered both within the broader context of neighborhood, social and economic conditions which are addressed in other parts of the HDMT.

Valuing the historic and social importance of integration, San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) has experimented with a number of different school assignment policies to promote diverse, high performing schools. Currently, SFUSD allows any student to apply to any school in the city. However, there are often situations where there are more requests for spaces at a particular school than seats available. Whenever requests are greater than the number of seats available, the SFUSD uses a Student Assignment System to guide student selection.  More information about the SFUSD Student Assignment System is available at:

  1. Backlund E, Sorlie PD, Johnson NJ. A comparison of the relationships of education and income with mortality: the National Longitudinal Mortality Study. Soc Sci Med. 1999;49(10):1373-84.
  2. Schneider, Mark (2000) Do School Facilities Affect Academic Outcomes? Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities. Accessed on May 14, 2008:
  3. "Student Success: What’s Violence Got to Do With It?" The Institute for Advancing Unity. Accessed on February 14, 2011: