EdSource symposium to tackle ‘seminal’ public school reforms

April 18, 2014

New tests, new lessons, new acronyms.

Public education in California is undergoing radical reforms that change everything – from how students will be tested on what they learn to the fundamental way schools are evaluated.

An EdSource symposium in Los Angeles next month will help the public make sense of the changes and how they’ll shape the future of education in the state.

The May 7 event, offered in partnership with the California State PTA, brings together some of the top experts in their fields to discuss the impact of reforms underway.

Panels will tackle the implementation of the Common Core State Standards – nationally aligned guidelines in math and English – and the online tests associated with them that students are now piloting; a push to add measures of “college and career readiness” into the Academic Performance Index of school effectiveness; and new standards of school accountability driven by the state’s revamped education funding law, the Local Control Funding Formula.

“California is at the apex of a generational education change, both in terms of funding and in terms of instructional methodology,” said Ken Hall, vice president of the EdSource Board of Directors who has been involved in public education for more than three decades.

With the slate of state reforms, “there’s a tremendous obligation for parents, the community, school boards … and superintendents to design an instructional system that will reduce the achievement gap,” Hall said. “It’s a seminal change.”

Speakers at the symposium include school reform expert Michael Fullan, the former dean at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto who is credited with leading a whole scale transformation of the Ontario, Canada school system. He’ll keynote a session on what it will take to reform education in California.

Other sessions focus on a 2012 law requiring that the API incorporate measures of how well schools are preparing students to succeed in college and careers – a challenging task for the state committee working to define how to assess such skills. A top researcher on the subject, David Conley from the University of Oregon, will be joined by Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond on panels exploring the new focus on college and careers, and how to best evaluate schools using measures other than test scores alone.

“It’s a new day in California,” Darling-Hammond said. “This new accountability is substantially bottom up, rather than top down, and focused on multiple measures of success, rather than a single test score.” She said an “important new conversation has begun.”

The symposium is intended to deepen that conversation.

“California (is) ready for a pretty significant inflection point to go to a new level of accountability (for student success) that’s much more enlightened,” said David Rattray, senior vice president of education and work force development for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Rattray will participate in a panel called, “Moving beyond the API: The Challenge of Evaluating Schools Using Multiple Measures.”

Schools will no longer be rated and ranked by standardized test scores alone, Rattray said – a welcome change that will ultimately result in a more robust system for evaluating schools.

“California is showing a lot of courage and creativity” in its reforms, Rattray said. “But I do think we’re at a crucial point where we really need to step forward and use that courage and creativity to imagine a better way to think about these questions.”

The EdSource symposium – The New Accountability: Testing Students and Evaluating Schools in the Age of the Common Core – is from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. May 7 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The $58 registration fee includes breakfast.   (Contact EdSource at edsource@edsource.org about scholarships to attend the event.)

Online registration for the event closes April 30. Last year’s symposium reached capacity and organizers are expecting a similar turnout this year, so participants are encouraged to register early.

The symposium is held in conjunction with the California State PTA’s annual convention, whose theme this year is “Connecting Families and Schools.”

Register here for the EdSource symposium

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