CA Has a Plan for Using Test Scores — Even With No Tests (Updated)
Vanessa Romo | September 13, 2013
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While a bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature would end statewide testing for a year – he’s expected to sign it – state officials plan to use older test results to assure that California receives its annual Title I allocations.
To comply with federal regulations that states must provide annual test results to qualify for the money, the California Department of Education has decided to use the higher of two scores — a school’s 2012-13 API results, which were issued last month, or a three year average of the most recent APIs.
“We knew that we needed something in the law that said what are we going to do, given the fact that we won’t have English language arts and math scores for one year,” Keric Ashley, Director of Analysis, Measurement, and Accountability Reporting Division for the department of education told LA School Report.
There is one caveat.
The State Superintendent may decide to calculate new scores for high schools since the high school API is partially based on the California High School Exit Exam. And the CAHSEE is not impacted by AB 484, the law awaiting Brown’s approval.
“So we could still do a new calculated API for high schools, but that would be State Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s decision to do that,” Ashely said.
The options in place not only safeguard millions of federal dollars that annually flow to districts, it could eliminate any legal confusion that has arisen within LA Unified and other state school districts regarding the use of California’s parent trigger law, which allows parents to make changes in their children’s schools by securing signatures of a majority of parents. It has been used several times on LA Unified schools.
At the district’s board meeting on Tuesday, district officials expressed apprehension over “the unknowns” in the absence of new school performance data. One senior district official speculated it would be possible to put a moratorium on all parent trigger applications.
But Ashley said, “I don’t know on what basis they would say a moratorium because there will be an API connected to the school.”
LA Unified’s Chief of Intensive Support and Instruction, Donna Muncey, worried that re-using a school’s current API score would give Parent Trigger advocates “a window that’s twice as long” to take over a school.
Schools only become eligible for a “parent trigger” action after they are identified by the state as failing, based on Academic Performance Index and Adequate Yearly Progress scores, which are usually released in late August or early September.
“That’s what sets the petition gathering [for a parent trigger] in motion,” Muncey said. “So usually, organizers collect signatures from the time those scores come out through May at the latest.”
Under the state’s new plan, the data used to determine which schools would be eligible is already available, giving parent trigger advocates a head start on their organizing efforts. That could lead to a significant increase in the number of parent trigger applications submitted over the next two years.
Ashley said the state would “probably release the new scores much earlier because we wouldn’t have to calculate anything new here. We could do that now.”
Communications Director Derrick Everett of Parent Revolution, the non-profit that has led the organizing efforts on all signature gathering campaigns in LA Unified and the nation’s first successful campaign in the Mojave Desert, said the new assessment formula does present them an advantage.
“It’s too early to tell whether this will move the calculus of parents, in terms of moving their time tables up or not, he said, adding: “The school’s that are failing this year have been failing for several years so they’re already on parents’ radar and thus they’re already on our radar.”