State Board of Education approves new evaluation system for schools
Sarah Favot | September 8, 2016
Despite calls for creating an overall rating, the California State Board of Education on Thursday approved a new evaluation system for schools that will display outcomes on a number of measures moving away from a system that relies on standardized test scores.
More than 100 speakers signed up to address the 11-member board during the five hours of discussion at its meeting in Sacramento on the single agenda item. State education officials have been developing the system for more than two years following the implementation of the state’s Local Control Funding Formula. The board was under a statutory deadline to adopt the evaluation system by Oct. 1.
The new accountability system will be implemented in July. Today’s vote was a major step in the process, although there will be more details on each of the performance indicators ironed out in the coming months, including how some will be measured.
Dozens of parents, community groups and others called for the board to create an overall rating in addition to the proposed multiple measures evaluation. Some parents from Los Angeles said they traveled by bus overnight to be in Sacramento for the morning meeting.
The new school report card will evaluate schools based on progress of English language learners toward proficiency, high school graduation rate, a college and career readiness indicator that combines 11th-grade test scores and other measures, and suspension rates. The “local” indicators are access to curriculum-aligned instructional materials and safe, clean and functional school facilities, implementation of state academic standards, parent engagement and school climate surveys.
Each criterion will be evaluated on the progress made in each of the areas over time. Each of the performance indicators will be assigned a color, from highest to lowest, the categories are: blue, green, yellow, orange and red.
California Department of Education staff noted that the evaluation rubric will evolve over the first years of implementation.
The new system will replace the Academic Performance Index, which was a score from 200 to 1,000, assigned to schools under the federal law No Child Left Behind, which relied almost exclusively on test scores. API was discontinued in 2013.
In a news release, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson called it a “new system for a new era.”
Many speakers said they preferred the multi-measure approach.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D- San Diego, who sponsored legislation that would, in part, require the state to consolidate each of the indicators into an overall school rating, addressed the board.
“I have been gravely concerned about the direction of the state board with respect to accountability, and for that reason this past year I authored AB 2548,” Weber said. The bill was unanimously approved by the state Senate and Assembly and awaits the governor’s signature.
Weber’s bill appears to align with proposed regulations by the U.S. Department of Education under its new education law Every Student Succeeds Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2015 and calls for states to “meaningfully differentiate” schools to identify the bottom 5 percent of schools that will receive assistance.
More than 300 education, business and community organizations and others have signed a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown urging him to sign Weber’s bill.
Weber outlined three “major deficiencies” in the state board’s proposal, including how it doesn’t make a key focus how to improve achievement for students who are most often left behind.
She said if a school does not succeed in any academic measure for any of its subgroups (which include English language learners, low-income students, African-Americans, Latinos and other groups), that school should receive assistance.
“At the end of the day, the taxpayers, parents and policymakers have a right to know when schools and districts are fundamentally struggling and ensuring something is being done about it,” Weber said. “Achieving this doesn’t have to be reduced to a single number, but it does have to be crystal clear.”
Los Angeles teachers from groups like Teach Plus and Educators 4 Excellence also addressed the board calling for a clearer system.
“Equity is Marco’s mom being able to read the evaluation rubric and making an informed decision for herself,” said Tunji Adebayo, who teaches at Lou Dantzler Preparatory Charter Middle School in LA. “Equity is us not pretending that the bottom 5 percent are the only schools that need help.”
Board President Michael Kirst addressed some criticism of the proposed school report cards presented in July that displayed 17 categories, each of which is rated by one of five colors. He said that the process is evolving and that was more like the back end of the design.
CDE staffer Nancy Brownell presented an updated mock-up of a website design where the information would be displayed for parents and the public that used tables, tabs and icons to display information. She said the icons are the same ones used by Consumer Reports.
The website is not yet finalized.
“It’s much closer than the Excel spreadsheet version of July,” Brownell said.
In his comments, board member Bruce Holaday addressed those who urged the board to adopt an overall rating in addition to the multiple measures.
“I think they will be able to distinguish this school from that school in very important ways … what are children similar to my child accomplishing in this school vs. that school,” he said.
Board member Trish Williams said she was overwhelmed by listening to the commitment of the parents who spoke to their kids and said the board should make sure the evaluation is easy to understand.
“We need to hear what those parents are saying to us about how important it is to them in their communities to be able to feel like they are understanding what’s going on in that school and whether or not it’s the right school for their kids,” she said.
In regards to the summative rating, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Keric Ashley said simplifying the whole process is not necessarily better.
“The takeaway is we need to make it clear and understandable and usable for parents, and I think that can be done with or without a summative rating,” he said.
Seth Litt, executive director of Parent Revolution, which advocated for a summative rating, said after the meeting that “clear and useful” are different from simple.
He said he was not surprised by the vote because it seemed like the board did not want to adopt a summative rating in the months leading up to Thursday’s meeting.
“We’ll continue to make sure parents’ voices are heard,” he said.
Other speakers raised concerns about how charter schools would be affected and wanted the board to make it clear which indicators do not apply to charter schools because they have some autonomy from state regulations that govern traditional public schools. Some parent groups urged the board to have clear guidelines for how parent engagement would be measured.
CDE staff plan to give the board an update on the evaluation indicators at its meeting in November.