A group of six California school districts, including LA Unified, this week unveiled a new school accountability system that represents a far more complex and intricate way of ranking schools.
Simply put, it is not all about standardized test scores anymore, and the school with the highest scores may no longer be the highest ranked school under the new system.
Education leaders in the state and nation will be keeping a close eye on how the new system is received, as it is the first one to be created that fits the requirements of the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA.) Under ESSA, each state is required to implement a set of high-quality student academic assessments, and the developers of the California districts’ system said they hope it becomes a national model.
Here are six things you need to know about the new School Quality Improvement Index.
What is the School Quality Improvement Index?
The index was developed by LAUSD and five other districts — known together as the California Office of Reform Education (CORE) — as part of a deal with the federal government. (Technically there are nine districts in CORE, but for various reasons only six are participating in the new index system.)
The districts banded together for the purpose of getting a much-desired waiver in 2013 from the stringent mandates of the No Child Left Behind law, and part of the waiver required them to develop a comprehensive way of evaluating and ranking schools. CORE became the first non-state to get a waiver.
In CORE’s new system, a school with high test scores won’t necessarily be ranked the highest, like it was with California’s Academic Performance Index (API), which was discontinued in 2013 to give the state time to transfer over new Common Core-aligned standardized tests and develop a new accountability system. The state and LAUSD have operated without any annual accountability system since then.
“[The index] gives schools the ability to take a more complex, comprehensive look at what is going on in their school,” said John McDonald, a consultant to CORE. “And now you have schools that traditionally, if you were just looking at API, may have been at the very bottom. When you look at this index, those schools may not be in that bottom because you are looking at different indicators.”
So if the system is not only about test scores, what is it about?
While test scores still play a role, the CORE index also includes other factors that were not previously considered, like graduation rates, attendance rates, suspension rates and the performance of English learners. It will even include “social-emotional and culture-climate” factors that will come from student surveys. Overall, 60 percent of a school’s score is based on academics; the social-emotional and culture-climate factors account for 40 percent. The surveys are not yet part of the scoring system as they won’t be given until this fall, but everything else is currently part of the scoring system.
How do I find out my school’s score, and how is that score reached?
Click here and search schools by name. The overall score is on the last page of each school’s report. The list includes 723 LAUSD schools, including traditional schools and affiliated charters but not independent charters. It also doesn’t include adult, continuation or special education schools.