Community groups offer ways to simplify state accountability system
Mike Szymanski | March 6, 2017
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A coalition of community activist groups concerned with education issued a report to show how California can create a simple rating for schools that all can understand.
A busload of three dozen families from Los Angeles will attend a state Board of Education meeting in Sacramento on Wednesday to urge the state to keep it simple when it comes to rating schools.
“We have a lot of families who are concerned that they will not be able to understand the new system and will just throw up their hands when trying to figure out school choice,” said Gabe Rose of Parent Revolution. “This could hurt families and keep parents from being more engaged in their schools.”
Parent Revolution, Center for American Progress, and Teach Plus California issued the 18-page report with the support of Educators 4 Excellence, National Council of Negro Women, Students Matter, Students for Education Reform and others. The report offers a variety of suggestions on how to simplify the state’s idea of a color-coded and more nuanced ranking of schools called the California School Dashboard.
“We are very happy with some of the ideas they have come up with such as how to indicate the progress of English Learners and other measures, but we need a quick and easy way that shows school performance,” Rose said.
Some of the parents are also concerned about how the state plans will be more confusing when laid out on paper, rather than online on computers, which isn’t accessible to all families. Erica Valente, who is mentioned in the report and has three children attending 24th Street Elementary School in South Los Angeles, said she was always active in parent meetings at the school but only recently was aware of the school’s overall poor test scores.
“Knowing that our school’s overall score was very low helped me and many other families to have the confidence to demand improvements from our school,” Valente explained in the report.
Twelfth-grade AP Language teacher William “Kip” Morales from Alliance Susan and Eric Smidt Technology High School in downtown Los Angeles said as a parent and teacher, an easier school rating is necessary. “I need to see how the school is generally doing in specific indicators so I can tailor the coaching for the teachers on my team,” he explained in the report.
The state educators have seemed resistant to an overall school score because it ignores lowest-performing and highest-performing students and fails to paint a complete picture of a school.
In one of the ways the report shows how the color-coded state ratings can be summarized is by posting academic and non-academic scores on one line in the school’s chart. That way, parents can see how the school ranks in overall test scores and also see graduation rates, suspensions, and chronic absenteeism ranks.
Among the measures that won’t be available in the latest roll-out of the state accountability system is the college- and career-readiness indicator. The California Board of Education said they won’t be ready with that indicator in time for next year’s launch.
“We think that they shouldn’t delay on the college readiness indicators or the other measures they said they won’t have ready until 2020. It’s time to get it done now,” Rose said.
After a meeting last week at LA Unified, Rose said he and other community groups met with school district officials to develop a plan for the Universal Enrollment system to make it easier for parents to find schools in their area. He said he offered their plan to help parents quickly find what schools were the highest-performing in their neighborhoods.
But Rose said the state educators have been resistant to a one-number ranking of schools.
“I am hopeful that there will be an openness, and when they hear from these families maybe it can show them how practical it will be,” Rose said. “We want to elevate the conversation.”