Say farewell to the API as you know it. Welcome to new era of accountability, with at least a couple years of confusion in between.

The release Thursday of the results on the state’s Academic Performance Index marks the end of a decade of judging student performance based on test scores alone. Within three years, California will have moved to a very different system in which scores on the newly introduced Common Core assessments and other state standardized tests will be but one spectrum in the prism for evaluating schools and districts.

There will be new, multiple measures that could include high school and middle school graduation rates, rates of absenteeism, reclassification of English learners, passage on Advanced Placement exams or a mix of other indicators.

How these measures will fit together – and whether they can even be combined coherently in one index ­– will be the State Board of Education’s challenge.

The Legislature gave the board until October 2015 to solve it in the law establishing the Local Control Funding Formula, passed in June. By then, it must approve three sets of evaluation criteria that will replace the sole reliance on various standardized tests, including the California Standards Test and high school exit exam, that currently comprise the API (see accompanying story). These “rubrics” will be used by districts to evaluate their own academic progress and by county offices of education and the state superintendent of public instruction to determine if districts and schools could use support or more serious forms of intervention.

The measurements will be drawn from eight priority areas that legislators cited in passing the funding formula  (see sidebar). Some of those – student achievement and student engagement, for instance – can be readily quantified through test scores and rates of attendance and absenteeism, while other areas, such as parent involvement and school climate, will be harder to measure. The law gave the State Board latitude to create other indicators.

In the law laying out the Local Control Funding Formula, legislators laid out eight priority areas for evaluating the effectiveness of a school, with says to measure them. Source: charter from the Legislative Analyst's Office report "An Overview of the Local Control Funding Formula," July 2013.

In the law laying out the Local Control Funding Formula, legislators laid out eight priority areas for evaluating the effectiveness of a school, with says to measure them. Source: charter from the Legislative Analyst’s Office report “An Overview of the Local Control Funding Formula,” July 2013 (click to clarify).

In addition to the Local Control Funding Formula, a second state law is also driving changes to the API. Pushed by Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and signed into law a year ago, Senate Bill 1458 requires that no more than 60 percent of the API (or whatever a new name will be) for high schools consist of test scores, leaving plenty of room for other measures. For elementary and middle schools, test scores would comprise at least 60 percent of a new accountability system.

Rough takeoff ahead

So that’s the framework for a few years from now. What’s muddy is what happens in between. It’s still unclear after weeks of negotiations among state officials what standardized tests will be administered next spring, which students and schools will take them and whether an API score will have any value at all.

Some of the answers should become clearer by Friday, if not next week, when the Senate Appropriations Committee, then the state Senate, act on a bill that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson authored and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, sponsored. AB 484 lays out which state tests will be given, which will be suspended and which will no longer be used for state accountability purposes in the transition period, starting in 2014.

In order to save money and enable teachers to focus on the new Common Core standards, Torlakson has proposed suspending all state tests that the federal government doesn’t require for accountability purposes under the No Child Left Behind law or that are used by the California State University and some community colleges for student placement purposes.

The result would be a bare-bones API for high school, consisting only of tests in science in grade 10, 11th grade English language arts, Algebra II taken by 11th graders, and the high school exit exam. Not offered would be all of the other end-of-course exams in science, history and math, including the critical Algebra I tests given to a majority of 8th graders as well as 9th and some 10th graders. Districts could offer the exams if they want. Arun Ramanathan, the executive director of Education Trust-West, is among the advocates for minority students critical of abandoning tests that provide important information to parents on college readiness.

The API for elementary and middle schools would be stripped down to include math and English language arts in grades 3 to 8 and science in grades 5 and 8. But it’s possible that a significant portion of students statewide wouldn’t even take those tests. Instead, they would take a field or practice test on the new Common Core math and English language arts standards.

A big unknown

The creator of those new tests, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, needs the field test in order to create a valid assessment that all California students will take in the spring of 2015. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said he would grant a one-year waiver to free schools that take the field test from also having to take state tests in those subjects. State test scores from the previous year would carry over for 2014 for those schools.

With this added incentive, some districts, including Long Beach Unified, Los Angeles Unified and East Side Union High School District in San Jose, want to give all of their students the field test. Their combined enrollment numbers would likely exceed Smarter Balanced’s goal of having 10 percent of students statewide take the English language arts section of the test and another 10 percent take the math.

Whether Duncan would grant a waiver to a wide swath of schools, whether the state would pay for the additional field tests and whether exempting large numbers of students from taking state tests would void the API next year are all unknowns – and the subject of ongoing negotiations. Bonilla, state education officials and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst aren’t commenting on them, for now.

There are other uncertainties:

  • AB 484 will also outline the time frame for developing new state tests. New Common Core-aligned tests must be designed for high school math courses and for English learners. The expected adoption by the State Board in November of the multi-state Next Generation Science Standards, replacing California’s science standards, requires new science tests. All of these would cost unappropriated money – and would have to be approved by a governor who doesn’t like spending more dollars on tests.
  • The first scores from the new Smarter Balanced tests will be available in 2015, but it will take at least two or three years before the results can meaningfully be used for accountability purposes, Kirst said. And most experts are saying that, between new rigorous standards and challenging assessments, the public should brace for initially low scores.
  • A new accountability system combining brand new tests and non-test-based measures will make it implausible to align scores under the old API with whatever the emerging system is called.

David Plank, executive director of the nonpartisan research center Policy Analysis for California Education, or PACE, welcomes the clean break from the past. The “Affluent Parent Index,” as he calls the API, is rooted in low-quality multiple-choice tests, and family incomes are predictive of the scores. The new Common Core assessments hold the promise of guiding teachers to teach differently and students to think critically. The new, non-test measures will give a more complete picture of a school.

That at least is the promise of the future. What happens in the transition will, in all likelihood, be messy.


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  1. Ze'ev Wurman 3 years ago3 years ago

    John, You have repeatedly mentioned my "pride of ownership" in the previous standards over recent years. I do agree that I have some amount of that, but the way you often mention it you allude to your belief that it blinds me to see the benefits of the "new way." I strongly disagree. My skepticism about the new standards, the new assessment, and the new accountability system that California tries to build stems, I believe, from … Read More

    John,

    You have repeatedly mentioned my “pride of ownership” in the previous standards over recent years. I do agree that I have some amount of that, but the way you often mention it you allude to your belief that it blinds me to see the benefits of the “new way.” I strongly disagree. My skepticism about the new standards, the new assessment, and the new accountability system that California tries to build stems, I believe, from very specific concerns which I tend to document and explain at length in my posts. So far I haven’t seen much challenge to those concerns.

    I hope you will forgive my saying so but I find you discounting these concerns more because you seem to find it easier to attribute them to my “pride” rather than rationally think them, and their implications, through. Whatever.

    Replies

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      Ze’ev, I don’t always agree with what you write, but it always makes me think. I appreciate that you take the time to comment here.

  2. Ze'ev Wurman 3 years ago3 years ago

    Perhaps I should start with John's title ... "transition to a BETTER system of measuring schools." Better? Perhaps. Or perhaps worse, fuzzier, and more meaningless. Time will tell. Stop showing your enthusiasm for the new, John, and simply label them that -- "NEW system for measuring schools." Which goes directly into the suggested new components. Commenters already noted the absence of "comparable school index" that is one of the most useful aspects of the current system. … Read More

    Perhaps I should start with John’s title … “transition to a BETTER system of measuring schools.” Better? Perhaps. Or perhaps worse, fuzzier, and more meaningless. Time will tell. Stop showing your enthusiasm for the new, John, and simply label them that — “NEW system for measuring schools.”

    Which goes directly into the suggested new components. Commenters already noted the absence of “comparable school index” that is one of the most useful aspects of the current system. But what will you make of “implementation of the Common Core standards” as a criterion — isn’t it an open invitation for visiting teams rewarding and penalizing schools based on how well they align with *ideological pedagogy* pf the visitors? In other words, student achievement (that is already properly included) is not enough. If the school does not implement state’s preferred *pedagogy* it may be at risk. Asinine. I am sure that all the fuzzy educators are already salivating at the prospect of imposing their pet ideas of how to teach on other, especially the “too successful,” schools.

    Now let me touch briefly on Gary Ravani’s image of Finland. While he is correct that Finland doesn’t have annual *state* assessment, Finland does have frequent — more than annual — school based HIGH-STAKES assessments, which have a large impact on what schools and courses students will be allowed to attend, whether they will be steered into academic or vocational tracks, and whether they will even be eligible for college going or not. Incidentally, only about 1/3 of Finnish cohort continues to college. Gary also mentions that badly supported and shameful advocacy report from the NRC trying to demolish accountability testing — people may want to read this, instead: http://educationnext.org/grinding-the-antitesting-ax/

    Finally, going to Navigio’s comments, I fear he is allows the good to be the enemy of the perfect. Surely he is right that the current information available to parents (and professionals!) is imperfect and can be improved. Yet he seems blind to the fact that his own critique of the current data is based on … the availability of the current data. Just a decade ago much of this data was completely unavailable to anyone, not just him. So, while improving the data is always a good idea, re-making the whole system and intentionally severing its continuity with its past is either foolish or intentionally aimed at disallowing comparison with the past and hence enable claims of “victories” for the next few years, without allowing anyone to check their veracity. Knowing some of the actors, I suspect both are true to some degree.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      The good is relative Ze'ev. In fact, so is the perfect. It does not instill confidence that the place I've heard that saying used the most is applied to public education. I might argue that forced de-segregation was an example of trying to avoid the good being the enemy of the perfect. In fact, it turned out not to be the good at all. We also need to make sure we are not making the horribly … Read More

      The good is relative Ze’ev. In fact, so is the perfect. It does not instill confidence that the place I’ve heard that saying used the most is applied to public education.

      I might argue that forced de-segregation was an example of trying to avoid the good being the enemy of the perfect. In fact, it turned out not to be the good at all. We also need to make sure we are not making the horribly disastrous be the enemy of the just ok.

      The fact that more data is provided now than in the past is true, however, I am absolutely willing to entertain the idea that no data might actually be preferable to bad data. Someone who points out that proficiency rates have increased will surely believe any data that ’causes’ that to happen was beneficial. But of course others claim thats exactly the wrong kind of success; that it comes at the expense of what we care about. One thing that I think cannot be disputed is that the proliferation of data has exacerbated (perhaps even accelerated) segregation (by not just ethnic metrics). I don’t think it has been answered as to whether that is a net benefit or a net loss (in fact, which it is likely depends on one’s political perspective). (a similar argument happens within special education, ie inclusion vs not).

      And you’re right about my perspective. I must meet data on it’s terms; I have no choice. That does not mean my doing so acts as a justification for data. I think those can be independent issues.

      I do agree that moves like this are designed to ‘obscure’. The more I watch the ‘history’ of accountability, the more I believe the basic idea is to hang a carrot on a stick, just outside the reach of schools. Then, when it goes rotten, to replace it with a new one..

    • John Fensterwald 3 years ago3 years ago

      You're right, Ze'ev, a bit of editorial judgment crept into the headline. Blame the headline writer (me). Actually, I am optimistic that a broader range of criteria for evaluating schools will give a richer and more helpful picture of student learning. I also am more optimistic about the new Common Core standards and assessments than you. You have pride of ownership in the old state math standards; I am vesting hope in the future, based … Read More

      You’re right, Ze’ev, a bit of editorial judgment crept into the headline. Blame the headline writer (me). Actually, I am optimistic that a broader range of criteria for evaluating schools will give a richer and more helpful picture of student learning. I also am more optimistic about the new Common Core standards and assessments than you. You have pride of ownership in the old state math standards; I am vesting hope in the future, based on flaws of the present and promises for the future.

    • Gary Ravani 3 years ago3 years ago

      Ze'ev expresses skepticism over a report from scientists at the National research Council and prefers reports from "Education Next" published by the "fair and balanced" Hoover Institution. I'll bet Hoover has interesting insights on climate change that refutes the work of all those pesky scientists on that topic too. And, yes, Finland does use frequent school/teacher made gets to assess student learning. But they do not have any "high-stakes" import in the sense that tests do … Read More

      Ze’ev expresses skepticism over a report from scientists at the National research Council and prefers reports from “Education Next” published by the “fair and balanced” Hoover Institution. I’ll bet Hoover has interesting insights on climate change that refutes the work of all those pesky scientists on that topic too.

      And, yes, Finland does use frequent school/teacher made gets to assess student learning. But they do not have any “high-stakes” import in the sense that tests do in the US. Some tests have high stakes for students as they transition from one “secondary” system to another. In the US tests scores tend to fall off the table at the secondary level because most students, quite rightly, figure out that there are no real stakes for them in the outcomes.

      • Ze'ev Wurman 3 years ago3 years ago

        It is not what I “prefer.” That scathing critique of the NRC report was written by Rick Hanushek, perhaps the foremost education economist in this country.

        Re Finland, perhaps we finally agree on something. Things won’t work in this country until tests also hold stakes for the kids. But that surely doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have any stakes for teachers and admins.

        • el 3 years ago3 years ago

          I'm not sure it's meaningful or helpful to create stakes for teachers or admins if they don't feel they have control over the outcome. My dental hygienist isn't going to lose her job if I don't floss, even if I don't for many appointments in a row, or if I once flossed and didn't before my latest appointment. And I've never heard it even suggested that that would be a reasonable way to judge dental professionals. … Read More

          I’m not sure it’s meaningful or helpful to create stakes for teachers or admins if they don’t feel they have control over the outcome.

          My dental hygienist isn’t going to lose her job if I don’t floss, even if I don’t for many appointments in a row, or if I once flossed and didn’t before my latest appointment. And I’ve never heard it even suggested that that would be a reasonable way to judge dental professionals. Would you prefer to be a patient of a dentist who used such a scheme?

          • Ze'ev Wurman 3 years ago3 years ago

            I agree that your dental hygenist shouldn't lose her job if you don't floss, but what if all her customers go away with gums bleeding for days and dislodged fillings? Or refuse to re-visit her? Should your dental office be prohibited from firing her? More seriously, it is rare that someone has a full control over his or her job. Yet s/he is expected to perform well within the limits of the job. Or quit, if … Read More

            I agree that your dental hygenist shouldn’t lose her job if you don’t floss, but what if all her customers go away with gums bleeding for days and dislodged fillings? Or refuse to re-visit her? Should your dental office be prohibited from firing her?

            More seriously, it is rare that someone has a full control over his or her job. Yet s/he is expected to perform well within the limits of the job. Or quit, if s/he feels that the constraints are unseasonable. If you view teachers as helpless vis-a-vis home environment, how do you justify raising teacher salary for advanced academic degrees or for NBPTS certification? After all you have just said that it doesn’t really matter what teachers do — you seem to believe that what matters is mostly students’ home poverty and home environment.

            • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

              why is everything so single-faceted? is it possible that more than one factor plays a role? go for high stakes, but apply it to staff, starting with the superintendent, and all district leaders. they are the ones who set policy after all. actually, maybe we should even apply this to the state level. does torlakson deserve his job--or the state BoE--when we are supposed to be at 100% proficient by now, but we barely cracked … Read More

              why is everything so single-faceted? is it possible that more than one factor plays a role?

              go for high stakes, but apply it to staff, starting with the superintendent, and all district leaders. they are the ones who set policy after all. actually, maybe we should even apply this to the state level. does torlakson deserve his job–or the state BoE–when we are supposed to be at 100% proficient by now, but we barely cracked 50% after 10 years of ‘trying’? or is that a too much of an ‘unreasonable constraint’ and expectation for the leaders of our educational system?

            • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

              You, navigio, are dangerous. How could you demand that our leaders be subjected to those tests? How could you shrilly claim that we have failed our children because our teachers failed to get 1005 of them proficient? Everybody knows the Emperor is buck naked. Do you have to make a big deal out of it? Why can't you just be a member of the team? There is no "I" in "team," you know.... Sheesh... Read More

              You, navigio, are dangerous.

              How could you demand that our leaders be subjected to those tests?

              How could you shrilly claim that we have failed our children because our teachers failed to get 1005 of them proficient?

              Everybody knows the Emperor is buck naked. Do you have to make a big deal out of it? Why can’t you just be a member of the team? There is no “I” in “team,” you know….

              Sheesh…

            • Ze'ev Wurman 3 years ago3 years ago

              You won’t catch me disagreeing with *that* (starting with SPI and admins). But it’s still a cheap — even as it is enjoyable — shot (smile). Admins should administer not teach. Teachers should teach, not be expected to invent the curriculum. Etc.

            • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

              Actually, I was serious. Most of those people's jobs are to make sure we have quality teachers. Its odd that we think that such a job would not impact educational outcomes. I think its even more so appropriate when those very administrators accuse the teaching staff in their districts of not being quality, yet apparently do nothing about it (for those who complain it is too expensive and too hard, apropos "it is rare that … Read More

              Actually, I was serious. Most of those people’s jobs are to make sure we have quality teachers. Its odd that we think that such a job would not impact educational outcomes. I think its even more so appropriate when those very administrators accuse the teaching staff in their districts of not being quality, yet apparently do nothing about it (for those who complain it is too expensive and too hard, apropos “it is rare that someone has a full control over his or her job. “).

              Regardless, a leader, by definition, takes on responsibility for all that happens below him/her.

          • CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

            Rick Hanushek is a highly partisan advocate of education privatization working for the pro-free-market, pro-privatization advocacy organization the Hoover Institution (mistakenly described as a "think tank" but actually an advocacy shop). It's incorrect and misleading to portray him as though he were an impartial academic researcher. By the same standard, journalists should be rewarded or punished based on their publications'/broadcast outlet's circulation and profits, and certainly now that it's measurable, views of or viewership of their … Read More

            Rick Hanushek is a highly partisan advocate of education privatization working for the pro-free-market, pro-privatization advocacy organization the Hoover Institution (mistakenly described as a “think tank” but actually an advocacy shop). It’s incorrect and misleading to portray him as though he were an impartial academic researcher.

            By the same standard, journalists should be rewarded or punished based on their publications’/broadcast outlet’s circulation and profits, and certainly now that it’s measurable, views of or viewership of their reports.

        • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

          what’s an ‘education economist’?

          • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

            According to the Cheez Whiz of encyclopedias: Education economics or the economics of education is the study of economic issues relating to education, including the demand for education and the financing and provision of education. From early works on the relationship between schooling and labor market outcomes for individuals, the field of the economics of education has grown rapidly to cover virtually all areas with linkages to education. But since we don't know who the source of … Read More

            According to the Cheez Whiz of encyclopedias:

            Education economics or the economics of education is the study of economic issues relating to education, including the demand for education and the financing and provision of education. From early works on the relationship between schooling and labor market outcomes for individuals, the field of the economics of education has grown rapidly to cover virtually all areas with linkages to education.

            But since we don’t know who the source of this, well….

            Oh, wait, you want a professional opinion? Sorry… 😉

            • Ze'ev Wurman 3 years ago3 years ago

              The definition above is quite good. And discipline's importance is indeed growing. Think of all the "adequacy" suites filed in the last 10-20 years -- educational economists are the "experts" there. Think of the "value" of early education to justify pushing more scarce dollar there -- their expertise, again. Think of the "value" -- both educational and economic -- that certain labor incentives may provide. Think of the "value" that increased systemic achievement may bring … Read More

              The definition above is quite good. And discipline’s importance is indeed growing. Think of all the “adequacy” suites filed in the last 10-20 years — educational economists are the “experts” there. Think of the “value” of early education to justify pushing more scarce dollar there — their expertise, again. Think of the “value” — both educational and economic — that certain labor incentives may provide. Think of the “value” that increased systemic achievement may bring to a country. We have seen that the US spends — in purchase-parity adjusted prices — more than almost any country in the world on education. Yet our academic outcomes seem mediocre at best. Why? How can the price/performance be changed? Etc.

            • el 3 years ago3 years ago

              Bruce Baker would say that there are no valid international comparisons for money spent, because what we call "Education Spending" is not uniform. For example, a huge percentage of the cost of education in America is actually spent on health care -- both for employees, and to a lesser extent on health-related services for students. American health care costs hugely more than health care in any other nation, and in those other nations, it's often … Read More

              Bruce Baker would say that there are no valid international comparisons for money spent, because what we call “Education Spending” is not uniform. For example, a huge percentage of the cost of education in America is actually spent on health care — both for employees, and to a lesser extent on health-related services for students. American health care costs hugely more than health care in any other nation, and in those other nations, it’s often accounted to health care instead of education.

              http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/smart-guy-gates-makes-my-list-of-dumbest-stuff-ive-ever-read/

              Apparently they’re working on a paper to try to tease out some appropriate expenditure comparisons.

            • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

              I am very familiar with Hanushek, just didnt realize there was a professional term for what he does. I thought he was more an economist who dabbled in educational issues for political reasons (yes, not entirely fair, but i've read a ton of his stuff--papers, articles, blog posts, depositions in court, etc--and it does appear this way). Apropos both Hanushek and the discussion a bit above: "Our results indicate that highly effective principals raise the achievement of … Read More

              I am very familiar with Hanushek, just didnt realize there was a professional term for what he does. I thought he was more an economist who dabbled in educational issues for political reasons (yes, not entirely fair, but i’ve read a ton of his stuff–papers, articles, blog posts, depositions in court, etc–and it does appear this way).

              Apropos both Hanushek and the discussion a bit above:

              Our results indicate that highly effective principals raise the achievement of a typical student in their schools by between two and seven months of learning in a single school year; ineffective principals lower achievement by the same amount.

              So there you go. I guess a good principal is even better than a charter school! 😉

              http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/school-leaders-matter-measuring-impact-effective-principals

              (btw, I have huge issues with the concept of economics being applied to educational policy, but i’ll let this thread retire in peace..)

            • Gary Ravani 3 years ago3 years ago

              Diane Ravitch wrote an interesting piece on the plague of economists weighing in on education issues. This is Galbraithe's concern writ large. People who want to reduce human issues to a single and simplistic dimensions defined by numbers and spread sheets. Hoover is primarily a propaganda outlet funded by the very wealthy to produce op/eds under the guise of "studies." Hanushek is an employee there and does that. Hoover is profoundly anti-tax and, coincidently, Hanushek … Read More

              Diane Ravitch wrote an interesting piece on the plague of economists weighing in on education issues. This is Galbraithe’s concern writ large. People who want to reduce human issues to a single and simplistic dimensions defined by numbers and spread sheets. Hoover is primarily a propaganda outlet funded by the very wealthy to produce op/eds under the guise of “studies.” Hanushek is an employee there and does that. Hoover is profoundly anti-tax and, coincidently, Hanushek writes about the importance of not spending any more on education. Of course, the ritual bashing of teachers’ unions is part of that narrative.

            • el 3 years ago3 years ago

              Economists seem to like this idea of measuring higher test scores as "additional months of learning" which ... doesn't quite work for me. It does kind of work when you're talking about kids being far behind and then catching up, but I see it used much more broadly than that in some of these papers. The implication that if we gave those kids an extra month in school that it would create X extra points on … Read More

              Economists seem to like this idea of measuring higher test scores as “additional months of learning” which … doesn’t quite work for me.

              It does kind of work when you’re talking about kids being far behind and then catching up, but I see it used much more broadly than that in some of these papers.

              The implication that if we gave those kids an extra month in school that it would create X extra points on the exams doesn’t fit what I think I see in real life and I think it’s a little misleading in terms of where deficiencies lie in both the student understanding and in what may be going on in the classroom. I’m wondering what other people think.

            • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

              el, you must remember that Economics has often been called the "Inexact Science." Personally, I think the idea that kids could advance in standardized tests automagically if they just went to school longer doesn't hold water. Economist that promote this are, in my opinion, full of hot air. But that's just me and they are "education economists" with tenure or well-paid positions! ;-) Read More

              el, you must remember that Economics has often been called the “Inexact Science.”

              Personally, I think the idea that kids could advance in standardized tests automagically if they just went to school longer doesn’t hold water. Economist that promote this are, in my opinion, full of hot air.

              But that’s just me and they are “education economists” with tenure or well-paid positions! 😉

          • el 3 years ago3 years ago

            A good one is Bruce Baker at School Finance 101.

            http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com

            He writes a lot about not only school finance, but also school test data, and lots of other kinds of data about schools.

      • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

        Well, what do you know, Gary, you are right. From "Defining Ideas, A Hoover Institution Journal": Time to Chill Out on Global Warming Predicting Our Demise To be fair, it could be argued that this is not the Hoover Institution's policy. But if it was not at least sympathetic to it, would they have published these rants? Ah, what the hell, we humans are just a little pox on the planet. If climate changes and we disappear, well, … Read More

        Well, what do you know, Gary, you are right. From “Defining Ideas, A Hoover Institution Journal”:

        Time to Chill Out on Global Warming

        Predicting Our Demise

        To be fair, it could be argued that this is not the Hoover Institution’s policy. But if it was not at least sympathetic to it, would they have published these rants? Ah, what the hell, we humans are just a little pox on the planet. If climate changes and we disappear, well, “men go and come, but Earth abides.”

        (Yes, this is totally off-topic but I needed a break!)

    • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

      Ze'ev's comment drives me to the conclusion that educational accountability is a farce that surely ends in tragedy. We behave as if educational testing is a well-understood and open process. It is not. There is so much inside baseball that it is difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys. In fact, they seem to periodically exchange places. No, I am not against testing. But given that every test ends up in a Gaussian … Read More

      Ze’ev’s comment drives me to the conclusion that educational accountability is a farce that surely ends in tragedy. We behave as if educational testing is a well-understood and open process. It is not. There is so much inside baseball that it is difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys. In fact, they seem to periodically exchange places.

      No, I am not against testing. But given that every test ends up in a Gaussian distribution that purposefully is kept constant year after year, well, why not tell the public exactly that? Why hide the data? What are “they” afraid of?

      Yes, in the good old days we were blissfully unaware of the tremendous dropout rates of the poor and “minorities.” Nobody cared because those dropouts were needed to keep our manufacturing-based economy humming along. But now that we have “socially advanced” and opened the doors to our institutions of higher learning to the hoi polloi, we suddenly want accountability.

      Well, guess what, it doesn’t matter if the drive to accountability is successful and, after 40 years of wandering the desert, we arrive at the Land of 100% Proficiency. Why? Because our universities cannot accommodate them all. Because our economy, despite it being touted as a “knowledge economy,” cannot employ them all.

      Yes, we are simply fiddling (wasn’t it really plucking?) while Rome burns. And the whole world is a stage.

      So what do we do? Because the old accountability system is full of holes and unexplained phenomena (unless you are inside the belly of the beast) we are going to get rid of it in favor of one that has been “adopted” by a group of states all in the name of “uniformity.” I guess misery loves company and forget about fixing something that is problematic: just throw it away and start anew. After all, part of our national myth is the reinvention of self.

      I’ve read through the Common Core aims. I’ve read through the Common Core implementation by New York’s Ed Department. I’ve read the new Math and Science standards. From all this reading I’ve reached a firm conclusion: I am glad my children won’t have to put up with this crap. And I am sure that by the time I have grandchildren, this too shall pass.

      Better, John? I wish I was as optimistic as you. I really do.

  3. Gary Ravani 3 years ago3 years ago

    We continue to be plagued by the inability to discern actual causal relationships from correlational ones. Academically inclined students took Algebra I & II in high school. Forcing students to take Algebra i & II does not make them academically inclined. That being said, no student who is qualified and ambitious should be denied an opportunity to take advanced classes. From the National Research Council (of the American Academy of Sciences) publication "Incentives and Test-Based Accountability … Read More

    We continue to be plagued by the inability to discern actual causal relationships from correlational ones. Academically inclined students took Algebra I & II in high school. Forcing students to take Algebra i & II does not make them academically inclined. That being said, no student who is qualified and ambitious should be denied an opportunity to take advanced classes.

    From the National Research Council (of the American Academy of Sciences) publication “Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education:” (Conclusion #1, page 4-26) “Test based incentive programs, as designed and implemented [NCLB/AYP] in the programs that have been carefully studied , have not increased student achievement enough to bring the US close to levels of the highest achieving countries.” In so many words, NCLB, AYP, Program improvement, API, etc., etc., have been a major flop. That is what Torlakson is talking about as explained at length by Linda Darling-Hammond in numerous articles and books.

    No, Finland (nor Singapore) does not do the kind of relentless testing we do in the US. The lesson from Finland is you actually have to do something about the conditions of kid’s lives that support learning, not just try and measure learning, to make a difference. We have shamed, blamed, and pointed fingers to little effect. On education policy we have been like the guy who liked to bang his head on a brick wall because it felt so good when he stopped. It is beyond time that we “stopped” the head banging, phony accountability, and scapegoating. The Affordable Care Act is one step forward, now for living wage jobs, quality early care and preschool, and fully funded classrooms. That’s when we’ll get to the “felt so good” part.

    Replies

    • Chris Stampolis 3 years ago3 years ago

      Gary, I appreciate reading your perspectives. While fixing the economy, implementing the Affordable Care Act and speaking about high expectations all are laudable, California's CST scores from recent years provide valuable data to schools and to community members. Not all schools serving socio-economically-disadvantaged kids provide the same opportunities to children. Parents have a right to know and compare. And, parents have a right to learn about data and to ask informed, … Read More

      Gary, I appreciate reading your perspectives. While fixing the economy, implementing the Affordable Care Act and speaking about high expectations all are laudable, California’s CST scores from recent years provide valuable data to schools and to community members. Not all schools serving socio-economically-disadvantaged kids provide the same opportunities to children. Parents have a right to know and compare. And, parents have a right to learn about data and to ask informed, numerically-rooted questions.

      The community currently can tell which schools are guiding kids from low-income, low parent-education-level, second-language households to extraordinary academic proficiencies. All schools are not the same when it comes to teaching children from socio-economically disadvantaged communities.

      The data about where kids are thriving in Algebra 1 (sometimes even in 7th and 8th grades) is valuable – not to criticize individual teachers, but to identify successes, to identify especially-challenged schools and to seek replication of proficiency.

      I repeat that we cannot eradicate the achievement gap unless we track the achievement gap. California’s children of poverty and family challenges were not achieving at higher levels in past years (like the 1950s and 1960s) than they are today. Our state has no serious past history of having educated children of color and children of poverty at high levels.

      I am very supportive of expanding a wide range of local social programs while also asking California’s government to continue to provide a similar public data tracking system for student proficiency. Common Core is not a synonym for “doing it all differently.” In fact, the actual posted wording of the Common Core standards on the CDE website demands more memorization and more automaticity in knowledge than what currently is expected. We should continue to track and disaggregate success statistics.

      Chris Stampolis
      Governing Board Member, Santa Clara Unified School District
      Member, Democratic National Committee
      408-771-6858 / 408-390-4748
      stampolis@aol.com

      • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

        Hi Chris. I don't mean to pick on you here, but you said a lot of things that are very near and dear to my heart. :-) First is this idea that parents have a 'right' to know and compare; to ask data-informed questions. I guess, as a data geek, I'd probably agree that would be a useful thing. Problem is, I've never seen any 'right' specified. What is specified is that if parents want info, … Read More

        Hi Chris. I don’t mean to pick on you here, but you said a lot of things that are very near and dear to my heart. 🙂

        First is this idea that parents have a ‘right’ to know and compare; to ask data-informed questions. I guess, as a data geek, I’d probably agree that would be a useful thing. Problem is, I’ve never seen any ‘right’ specified. What is specified is that if parents want info, they have to ask for it and if its about students or teachers or administrators the request can be (and is) rejected for all sorts of reasons. I would like to know where you think this ‘right’ is specified. (more generally, it would probably be useful to discuss whether parents should even have this right, but I dont want to divert to that here).

        Even assuming we have this right and the state/district complies, I reject the notion that the information available is anywhere near sufficient to make informed decisions or ask numerically-rooted questions.

        Lets use an example from API, since you made your comment on this thread.

        One thing I’ve always found interesting is how API can vary so differently from our other metric of choice: proficiency rate. As you probably know, its not uncommon for a school to increase its proficiency rate but experience a drop in API. Mostly at the high school level, API includes much more than just ELA and Math, so schools can do very well in those ‘core’ elements, but still fail badly in API (or vice versa).

        If one takes the time to look into API, it becomes clear exactly what creates such dynamics. The problem is, the data that is necessary to understand these things for a given school is not even public. In other words, it is literally impossible for a parent to understand why an API is what it is based on the data that is mandated to be provided to the public.

        How in the world can a parent accurately assess a school, let alone understand data and ‘ask informed, numerically-rooted questions’ when the data is not even available?!

        A similar phenomenon exists when simply trying to understand the performance of parent education level students you mention. We cant get anything but proficiency rate by grade there, so we’ll never know how a school is really doing with these students (I will quickly add that according to this year’s API calculation worksheet, in at least one grade span, its possible to have an 800 API with only 35% of your students being proficient. In another distribution of scores for that same grade span, it would take as much as 83% proficiency to reach an 800 API. How useful is proficiency rate there? And why should we then not be allowed to see how that resulted in the given API?)

        I’ve talked about this one before, but a year or two ago, I found a school in which the API ‘gap’ between SWD and non-SWD African Americans (ie same ethnic subgroup) was 350 points, in a single school. What in the world could that mean about the school? And what in the world does it mean when we say that school has an achievement gap between whites and african americans, but the numbers used for measuring that achievement gap included both SWD and non-SWD students for each of the ethnic subgroups, and the SWD classification rate for one group is nearing 30% while the SWD classification rate for the other is like 8%. That level of detail is not public information. Instead we use these overall numbers to ‘paint’ a picture of our schools that allows parents to make ‘informed, numerically-rooted’ decisions. Really??

        The data about Algebra I is surely interesting, but it is often as misleading as well. I remember looking at a number of schools a few years back and noticing that a low-income school had neared another, high-income school in overall math proficiency. ‘Awesome’, I thought. Then I noticed the latter school had 8th graders taking Geometry, the former didn’t even offer Geometry. How many members of the general public do you think can figure that out, let alone would know to even look for that? And how many districts do you think would ever even mention it?

        Finally, I actually agree with you on tracking the achievement gap, however, I will disagree with you that would entail ‘continuing’ to do so, because in reality, we don’t really track the achievement gap now. What we track is misleading and an insult to schools and students. We also don’t actually disaggregate now. We pay lip service to disaggregation (if we were to do this in a meaningful way, the disaggregation metrics would not be mostly mutually exclusive). And probably the worst thing of all is that the ways in which we obfuscate our data and hide it from the public are exactly ways that not only contribute to a lack of understanding but even exacerbate segregation due to the very inability to ask numerically-rooted questions, and, more importantly, make decisions based on the answers.

      • Ann 3 years ago3 years ago

        Spoken like a true politician, although I agree with your perspective on data.

      • Gary Ravani 3 years ago3 years ago

        Chris; Contrary to the conventional wisdom and for various reasons test data from the CSTs has never been particularly useful to classroom educators. Maybe math people find it useful due to a more vertically aligned curriculum, but in other areas not so much. My assignments were in English and history and they were basically useless. The advertising suggests smarter balanced will be more useful. Well see. About the "achievement gap," a smart person once said "Kindergarten is … Read More

        Chris;

        Contrary to the conventional wisdom and for various reasons test data from the CSTs has never been particularly useful to classroom educators. Maybe math people find it useful due to a more vertically aligned curriculum, but in other areas not so much. My assignments were in English and history and they were basically useless. The advertising suggests smarter balanced will be more useful. Well see.

        About the “achievement gap,” a smart person once said “Kindergarten is too late. Due to all of the various socioeconomic gaps I outlined above the “achievement gap” is well entrenched by the start of school and grows yearly. For most kids school is a “weak treatment” for the socio-economic issues.

        Did you ever think that the results you mention, that educating kids in poverty to high levels, is being measured by data generated from tests we “now” (some of us have been suggesting this for years) recognize as being narrow and superficial? Thats why the state (and the nation) are investing billions in new ones. The advertising says the new assessments will be better. The National Research Council suggest much of what is perceived as progress in “achievement'” since the imposition of test based accountability is ephemeral, and that’s because of the teaching to the test phenomenon. Those schools your talking about, with a few exceptions, are just test prep academies.

        About the whole ides of measuring, tracking, disaggregating, etc., etc. John Kenneth Galbraith, a New Deal Warrior, presidential advisor, professor, ambassador, and a man deeply committed to social justice and equity, discusses the rise of the “New School/Chicago School” economists in his biography by Richard Parker. He said it quickly became evident to him that their version of “econometrics” was designed to use charts, spreadsheets, algorithms, etc., not to clarify economic policy issues, but to mask the damaging and real human impacts of cold and cruel economic policy decisions.

        If you look, and not particularly closely either, at current education trends: pay attention to the data and the spreadsheets–not the kids; class size reduction, in spite of very good research, is a “waste” of dollars; no need for more salary dollars, just redistribute current dollars in salaries based on “performance” on those same lousy test we’re replacing; in spite of solid research, universal pre-school is just too expensive; in fact anything that costs money for education is too expensive. You can plainly see Galbraith’s assertions about the “econometric school” (alive and well at the Hoover Institution) wreaking its havoc in the public school system.

  4. Chris Stampolis 3 years ago3 years ago

    Hardly any legislators have read the actual text of AB484 - a bill that either will create the highest-stakes public high school testing in California's history or will result in no testing at all. Difficult to tell what State Superintendent Tom Torlakson actually wants. Tracking Algebra results with the ability to disaggregate results by grade level is key for the public to evaluate student math proficiency and to keep tabs on the achievement gaps connected … Read More

    Hardly any legislators have read the actual text of AB484 – a bill that either will create the highest-stakes public high school testing in California’s history or will result in no testing at all. Difficult to tell what State Superintendent Tom Torlakson actually wants.

    Tracking Algebra results with the ability to disaggregate results by grade level is key for the public to evaluate student math proficiency and to keep tabs on the achievement gaps connected with algebra success. AB 484 seeks to end statewide evaluation of this benchmark of student success.

    If all Algebra 1 tracking is eliminated at the state level, the only high school test will be a one-size-fits-all test in 11th grade – where all students will be evaluated on Algebra 2 content, regardless of a student’s background. The one 11th grade test will become the only mathematics contributor to a high school’s statistical evaluation. Those high stakes eventually will lead to no math testing at all in high schools after that single 11th grade test is criticized for putting too much emphasis on one exam.

    Torlakson refers frequently to Finland and his desire that California model our education efforts of what he perceives occurs in that country. Torlakson especially supports an approach that less end-of-year testing somehow will increase the proficiency of currently lagging students and that Californians will be better off if we don’t know what’s going on with Algebra proficiency or the differences in achievement among different demographics.

    I used to think Tom was a straight-shooter. But his non-answers about the specifics of AB484 seriously reduce his credibility in the education trustee community and among Californians who know that reducing the achievement gap means tracking the achievement gap.

    Let’s hope this bill as it has been written is not signed by Governor Brown.

    – Chris Stampolis
    Trustee, Santa Clara Unified School District
    Member, Democratic National Committee
    408-771-6858 / 408-390-4748
    stampolis@aol.com

    Replies

    • el 3 years ago3 years ago

      If you want to model California after Finland, I feel the need to point out a couple of conditions there that almost certainly improve their academic achievement nationally: 1. Child poverty rate of 5.3 percent for Finland compared to 23%+ for the US nationally and around 22% for California (keeping in mind that the poverty line is not adjusted for cost of living, the CA number is probably too low) 2. 6 weeks paid vacation for workers... … Read More

      If you want to model California after Finland, I feel the need to point out a couple of conditions there that almost certainly improve their academic achievement nationally:

      1. Child poverty rate of 5.3 percent for Finland compared to 23%+ for the US nationally and around 22% for California (keeping in mind that the poverty line is not adjusted for cost of living, the CA number is probably too low)
      2. 6 weeks paid vacation for workers… meaning that working adults have more time to spend with kids.
      3. Universal healthcare

      Schools with healthy, stable communities have generally good results. That’s what we don’t have: healthy, stable communities for kids.

  5. Doug McRae 3 years ago3 years ago

    This post is a good description of the train wreck coming if AB 484 is approved as currently written. Statewide assessment programs are meant to measure academic achievement but as attributed to SBE Pres Kirst, the proposed new tests per 484 will not generate meaningful results for tracking achievement for several years after the proposed implementation in 2015. It is possible to introduce statewide tests to measure the Common Core in a responsible manner, generating … Read More

    This post is a good description of the train wreck coming if AB 484 is approved as currently written. Statewide assessment programs are meant to measure academic achievement but as attributed to SBE Pres Kirst, the proposed new tests per 484 will not generate meaningful results for tracking achievement for several years after the proposed implementation in 2015. It is possible to introduce statewide tests to measure the Common Core in a responsible manner, generating valid and reliable individual and aggregate scores for accountability purposes and protecting continuity of CA’s API system data. We can only hope that the Legislature and the Governor have the wisdom to require a plan that would provide for a successful transition to Common Core assessments, rather than the 484 train wreck described in this post.

  6. Ann 3 years ago3 years ago

    “Affluent Parent Index,” What about the Similar Schools ranking? For all the whining and hand wringing an intellectually honest person would have to admit that schools and teachers that have done a good job teaching the standards (that is different than test prep which is a canard in any cases) have students who performed well. Its not the test its the teaching.

    Replies

    • Avila 3 years ago3 years ago

      Exactly. That is the first thing that I thought about. No where in this criteria takes in to account the teacher. My son had an awful teacher last year and as a result dropped from Advanced to Basic in ELA.

      • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

        And yet the very people who designed the tests tell us they can’t be used to measure the impact of an individual teacher. what to do, what to do..?

        • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

          In my personal experience (or, rather, the experience of one of my kids), the tests contain questions that refer to what was taught at a particular level. If the teacher is so awful as to not even teach the California Standards, then there is no way on this green Earth that a student will even come close to answering the questions. Hence a kid that usually scores proficient-or-above will fall down to basic or even … Read More

          In my personal experience (or, rather, the experience of one of my kids), the tests contain questions that refer to what was taught at a particular level. If the teacher is so awful as to not even teach the California Standards, then there is no way on this green Earth that a student will even come close to answering the questions. Hence a kid that usually scores proficient-or-above will fall down to basic or even further below. (My kid’s experience was in Algebra II.)

          Conversely, a kid may be getting an A in the class and still score poorly in the CST. There is data that proves this fact, but it is not publicly available. (But I have a copy and you can have it if you somehow figure how to give me your email address.)

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