Sunday, August 14, 2016

Pro Privatization Editorial: Tough measurements for school success needed - San Francisco Chronicle

Editorial: Tough measurements for school success needed - San Francisco Chronicle:

Editorial: Tough measurements for school success needed

The state of California, the federal government, and your local school district all agree — our lowest-performing schools need support and improvement. The problem is that every entity has its own idea about how to make changes.
A conflict between different educational reform systems sounds academic, but it could have real and serious effects on students, parents and school officials.
According to a data analysis from the Policy Analysis for California Education, a nonprofit based at Stanford University, the regulations that officials use to evaluate California’s schools could be the deciding factor in which ones are listed as low-performing schools — and which are not.
“When you use multiple measures, they highlight different performance metrics of the school,” said Heather Hough, a researcher with Policy Analysis. “How you weight those measures will have a dramatic impact on which schools are identified as needing improvement.”
And schools that are designated as needing improvement are subject to increased oversight, scrutiny, and — unfortunately — public shame.
California is currently struggling with the right way to measure a failing school.
How we got here is complicated — and so is our way out.
Under a 2013 federal waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act, six California school districts created their own school accountability and improvement model.
This model, known as the CORE system (for California Office to Reform Education), takes a broad view of a school for evaluation. In addition to academic test scores, the system looks at non-academic metrics for student success, including suspension/expulsion, chronic absenteeism, college and career readiness indicators (including attendance rates and grades), and students’ self-assessments of social and emotional skills like self-management.
“It’s a very unusual situation, that these districts had a waiver from (No Child Left Behind),” Hough said. “Everyone else with a waiver was states.”
But having a set of districts willing to innovate new measurements of success, with the help of expert groups, is a good thing in a big, diverse state like California — and potentially a good thing for the entire country.
Most states don’t have robust alternative measurements for educational success beyond No Child Left Behind’s narrow focus on math and reading test scores. And the narrow focus on math and reading test scores is a big reason why educators, parents and students across the country became frustrated with the federal No Child Left Behind program.
Frustration with No Child Left Behind spurred Congress to replace it with a new reform, called the Every Student Succeeds Act. But when No Child Left Behind disappeared, so did the six California districts’ federal waiver. (Oakland Unified and San Francisco Unified school districts are among them.)
The new federal act asks states to design accountability systems weighted toward four, rather than two, measures: proficiency on English and math tests, growth over time on those test scores, growth on English learners’ language proficiency, and high school graduation rates.
While far broader than No Child Left Behind, the proposed federal regulations wouldn’t allow the six California districts to continue piloting their own innovative program of multiple school quality and student success factors.
That is, unless the California Department of Education gives these districts a waiver from the state accountability requirements.
This is what it boils down to: many of California’s school districts thought it was unfair to judge their schools as failing because they served large numbers of challenged students whose growth and progress wasn’t fairly measured by a narrow set of tests. They want the ability to try new measures — ones that may be adopted by other school districts and even other states.
Should they be granted the waivers? While it’s worth arguing over what their metrics should be, the principle of allowing districts to innovate must be respected. That’s the California way.Editorial: Tough measurements for school success needed - San Francisco Chronicle:
Big Education Ape: CORE waiver is bad idea | Letters to the Editor | -
Big Education Ape: CORE districts want state waiver to continue their work | EdSource -



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