LAUSD using new, wider approach in assessing school success
Mike Szymanski | December 4, 2015
LA Unified is among nine California school districts that are using a new index to gauge the success of schools, applying a mix of academic achievement as well as social, emotional and cultural measures.
Leaders of the non-profit California Office to Reform Education (CORE) districts presented their plan to the California School Boards Association annual conference today in San Diego. The assessment is the first of its kind in the nation, and preliminary results are expected in February.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters today, CORE executive director Rick Miller said the new system is not about “hammering people, but on how to improve the school so that everyone gets better at what they do.” The CORE team found failures in the No Child Left Behind model; districts adopting the new assessment tools received a federal waiver from some of its requirements last year.
Nearly half of the LA Unified student population, 308,000 students, in 182 traditional schools participated in the Spring 2015 field test. Statewide, more than 450,000 students are involved in the CORE district program.
“We have known for a long time that academic performance is one of many factors that make a great school, but CORE districts are now serving as a model for how we can actually measure these factors and look more holistically at school outcomes,” LAUSD superintendent Ramon Cortines said in a statement. “Working together, educators have created an Index that captures more information that matters, and it has great potential to help schools and districts meet the needs of our students.”
Miller said schools are already using the data they are collecting. He said, “There is very valuable information for the teachers and principals, and they find which areas that they will focus on.”
The complex School Quality Improvement Index gives a score that is 60 percent based on academics and 40 percent based on social, emotional and culture-climate factors. The academics not only include test scores, but also graduation rates and growth of improvement. The social aspect includes absenteeism, suspension rates, English-language and special education designations and surveys from students, parents and teachers.
Noah Bookman, the chief accountability officer for CORE, said the questions in the surveys have been carefully scanned to avoid cultural bias.
CORE researchers found out that students had a 95 percent chance to graduate from high school if they maintained a 2.5 grade point average, had no suspensions and kept a 95 percent attendance record, Miller said.
“We believe deeply that’s what high quality school looks like,” he said.
The new school assessment has nothing to do with Common Core Standards, but CORE supports the overall approach that the new school standards adopts. Miller said the new standards of teaching adopted by the state folds nicely into the CORE districts.
Richard Carranza, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, another CORE district, said, “This kind of information provides actionable places for school leaders and communities to focus their improvement work.”