Education

California education leaders approve new method of grading schools

Educator stresses importance of parents being part of school, student success

PICO member Danielle Prince talks about the importance of parental involvement in education and how gauging that participation can be done better.
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PICO member Danielle Prince talks about the importance of parental involvement in education and how gauging that participation can be done better.

State education leaders Thursday unanimously approved a new system that uses multiple ways to judge school performance, replacing the Academic Performance Index score used in previous years.

The accountability system approved by the State Board of Education will rate schools not only on standardized test scores, but also on the progress of English learners, high school graduation rates, college and career readiness and, initially, suspension rates. School districts also will measure campuses for school climate, parent engagement, implementation of state academic standards, services for expelled students and adequate instruction and facilities.

Much work remains. The state has set up working groups to research how to measure school climate, parent engagement and college and career readiness. It also is working with the San Joaquin County Office of Education and WestEd, a nonprofit research group, to build a web-based report card that is easy to read.

“What we have today is something we haven’t had before ... a mental model,” said board member Patricia Ann Rucker.

The State Board of Education proposal would replace the three-digit API that was suspended in 2013 when the state adopted new standardized tests that adhere to Common Core State Standards. While the score gave communities and education officials an easy way to compare schools, critics said it was too grounded in test scores and ignored other factors that reflect school performance.

The vote came after 116 activists, parents, teachers and students spoke. Almost all supported a new accountability system, but some wanted immediate state intervention at schools that score poorly. Many expressed concern that previous prototypes were confusing.

Raquel Antolin, of Students for Education Reform and a recent Sacramento State graduate, said the report card should be “clear, transparent and accessible” to everyone and data should be available in multiple languages.

Alexandra Menjivar took a bus overnight from Los Angeles to say she wants a single number to determine how her children’s schools are performing. “Multiple measures are good, but it doesn’t tell me how our school is doing overall,” she told the board.

The new system would begin in July 2017, according to a document for Thursday’s board meeting in Sacramento.

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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