The State Board of Education approved Thursday key elements of a new accountability system that evaluates schools and districts in 10 areas critical to student performance, including graduation rates, readiness for college and careers, test scores, and progress of English learners.
The system reinforces California's national leadership in developing an accountability system designed to help all schools continuously improve.
"Today the State Board has taken a big step toward improving our accountability system, as required under the new school funding formula approved by the governor and the legislature. This accountability design is unique and has never been used before in the United States," said California State Board of Education President Michael Kirst. "Parents, educators, and the public will soon be able to look at a variety of areas to tell how their school is doing, where it may be strong, where it may be weak, and where it may need help."
The new system provides multiple ongoing measures of school performance instead of the single, one-item snapshot from the prior system.
The specific display of the performance system is not final. Staff will work with parents, teachers, and members of the public to ensure it is easy to understand, similar to a report card. The Web-based system will be available in early 2017.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson called this a "new system for a new era." The changes, which put California on the cutting edge of innovations that enhance student learning, are happening in a state with the most diverse student population and with the most students—more than 6.2 million—at more than 10,000 schools.
"Once again, California leads the way. No longer will our parents and our communities be asked to evaluate a school or a district based on a single number," said Torlakson. "The new accountability system provides parents, educators, and community members with a wealth of information, allowing them to dig deep into a variety of areas that affect student performance and more effectively hold their districts accountable. It will also help educators more easily identify and assist schools and districts in need of help."
The system gives parents, educators, and the community more tools to understand what is happening at their schools, promotes equity by helping to identify disparities among student groups, and more effectively identifies the schools that need extra help and where they need it.
The innovative new system replaces the outdated Academic Performance Index (API), which relied almost exclusively on test scores to measure progress, and is a key element of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which provides more local control over revenues and more resources for students with the greatest needs.
The board approved actions that make up an "evaluation rubric," which provides a tool for holding schools and districts accountable for the eight state priorities identified in the Local Control Funding Formula, approved by the Legislature in 2013. Among the priorities are student achievement, student engagement, school climate, and parent engagement.
Board actions included:
- Adopting four state indicators of school success with performance standards: readiness for college and careers, graduation rates, progress of English learners, and suspension rates.
- Adopting two state indicators of school success, with performance standards to be finalized in the coming months: scores on state standardized tests and chronic absenteeism.
- Adopting four local indicators with performance standards: basic conditions at a school, progress in implementing standards, parent engagement, and school climate.
- Establishing a system by which schools that do not meet performance standards can become eligible for technical assistance and intervention.
- Providing information on model practices of schools performing well and providing resources for schools.
The performance standards will be based on status, how each school or district fared last year, and change, how much they have improved or declined in the past three years. Schools will be rated based on a combination of these measures and assigned one of five performance levels. From highest to lowest, the categories are: Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red.
The status and change thresholds were developed by analyzing current data so they would broadly reflect where districts and schools are now. Using high school graduation rates as an example, five status levels were set, with a low of a graduation rate of less than 67 percent (considered very poor) to a high of a 95 percent graduation rate (considered very high). In addition, five rates of change were set, from a low of a decline of 5 percent or more to a high of an increase of 5 percent or more.