Theresa Harrington
Richmond High Counselor Edel Alejandre, right, speaks to students who have been denied their diplomas because they were unable to take and pass the exit exam after the July test was abruptly cancelled.

Students in the class of 2015 who haven’t passed the California High School Exit Exam may be able to graduate soon, based on action planned this week in the Legislature.

In response to media coverage about students left with no recourse after the California Department of Education abruptly canceled the July administration of the test, legislators acted swiftly to find a quick fix when they came to work Monday after their summer break.

They earmarked SB 725 by Sen. Loni Hancock, D­-Oakland, dealing with visual and performing arts education, for “gut­-and­-amend” action on Wednesday that will replace language in the original bill with new wording exempting the students from the requirement to pass the exam to receive a diploma. An urgency clause will be added and the bill is expected to go to the full Assembly for a vote on Thursday, said David Rolland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D­-San Diego.

Atkins and Senate pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D­-Los Angeles, issued a joint statement last Friday expressing concern about the 5,000 students throughout the state who weren’t able to re­take the exam as planned, in order to fulfill California’s graduation requirements.

“We intend to solve this issue as quickly as possible by proposing urgency legislation for these displaced students,” the statement said. “These students are stuck in a bureaucratic limbo through no fault of their own and we are committed to helping them move forward.”

This was welcome news to several West Contra Costa school district students who were denied the opportunity to graduate with the rest of their class after they failed the May exam and were told no test would be offered in July.

“I quit my job at Wendy’s so I could go to summer school, because I know school’s more important,” said Brenda Diaz, an 18­-year-­old Richmond High student who lives in San Pablo. “I’ve been calling my counselor to find out what’s going on. They told me to just wait. I can’t get a better job because I need my high school diploma. I want to go to college.”

Her classmate Felipe Campos, 17, said he needs his diploma so he can join the military. “I don’t understand any of this,” said Campos, a Richmond resident who missed passing the English and math exams by only 10 points. “I’m kind of mad. It’s important because I’m studying for a test to enter the Army. If I don’t have my diploma, I don’t have a chance to get in.”

Richmond High student Brenda Diaz holds letter informing her she cannot graduate because she didn't pass the CAHSEE.

Theresa Harrington

Richmond High student Brenda Diaz holds letter informing her she cannot graduate because she didn’t pass the exit exam.

Their counselor Edel Alejandre was so upset about the state’s decision and the district’s failure to immediately notify those affected that he wrote to the governor and the district school board about his 28 students who have had to put their lives on hold.

“They didn’t take the kids into consideration,” he said. “How can you not have taken into account the feelings of the parents and the students? I had to tell them and it was not pleasant.”

Some panicked students even called him while he was on vacation in Mexico to seek his advice.

 

The Department of Education canceled the July administration of the exam because the contract with the testing company, Educational Testing Service, did not include any tests after May. Department officials were awaiting direction from the state Legislature about replacing the exit exam before taking action on the contract.

Senate Bill 172 by Sen. Carol Liu, D­-Canada Flintridge, proposes to suspend the exit exam for students in graduating classes between 2014­-15 and 2017­-18 to give the state time to consider alternatives based on new Common Core standards, according to the Department of Education’s recommendation. It is expected to be considered later this month.

Alejandre was impressed by the San Francisco Unified School District Board’s decision last Friday to defy state law and issue diplomas to its students who had fulfilled all graduation requirements except for passing the exit exam. He said he wished the West Contra Costa school board would take similar action.

West Contra Costa Trustee Randy Enos said he would be willing to follow San Francisco’s lead, but he couldn’t speak for the rest of the board.

“Personally, I think it’s really important that we correct this so those young people can go ahead and graduate without having to go through a whole lot of problems, because they’ve been through quite a bit already,” he said.

But Todd Groves, president of the West Contra Costa school board, said he would be hesitant to issue diplomas that might not be considered valid.

“This is sending ripples throughout the education system,” he said. “This policy indecision at the state level has been painful. We were assuming the legislation would be passed much earlier.”

 

The San Francisco school board took matters into its own hands after some students complained that their admission to state universities had been rescinded because they were unable to complete the exam graduation requirement. The state’s decision to rescind the final test administration “disproportionately affected students of color, English learners and socioeconomically disadvantaged students,” according to a district news release.

“Students, when you raise your voice and demand justice, justice will be done,” Superintendent Richard Carranza said.

The state has not taken any action to invalidate the diplomas, said Gentle Blythe, spokeswoman for the San Francisco district, in a phone interview. In addition, she said some other districts may consider similar action.

“We’ve been in discussion with other districts even prior to the board policy change, and had a lot of interest,” she said. “But I can’t speak for any other district in terms of what their actual plans are.”

The California State University system announced Tuesday that it would allow incoming first­-time freshmen to start classes if their high school transcripts show no graduation date due to the cancellation of the exit exam.

“California high school graduates who aspire to enroll at a CSU campus and meet all other requirements for admission to the CSU will not be turned away because of the decision to cancel the exam,” said Loren Blanchard, CSU executive vice chancellor, in a prepared statement.

Bill Ainsworth, communications director for the state Department of Education, said in an email that the state would not penalize San Francisco Unified or any other district that issues diplomas to students in the class of 2015 who met all graduation requirements except passing the exit exam.

“This is a rare event that we know will not be repeated again,” he said.

University of California spokeswoman Dianne Klein said she was not aware of any students admitted who were affected by the exit exam cancellation.

If the Assembly approves SB 725 as amended, it would move onto the Senate for approval and could be signed by the governor within days. Once signed, it would go into effect immediately.

Staff writer Sarah Tully contributed to this report.

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  1. Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

    An interesting comment from Fair Test here: "Graduation tests do not promote the knowledge, skills and habits needed for success in college or skilled work. According to college professors and employers, high school graduates must be able to analyze conflicting explanations, support arguments with evidence, solve complex problems that have no obvious answer, reach conclusions, conduct research, and engage in the give-and-take of ideas (National Research Council, 2002). Also needed are attributes such as good study … Read More

    An interesting comment from Fair Test here:

    “Graduation tests do not promote the knowledge, skills and habits needed for success in college or skilled work. According to college professors and employers, high school graduates must be able to analyze conflicting explanations, support arguments with evidence, solve complex problems that have no obvious answer, reach conclusions, conduct research, and engage in the give-and-take of ideas (National Research Council, 2002). Also needed are attributes such as good study skills, time management, awareness of one’s performance and persistence. Since exit exams do not measure most of these important attributes, test scores have little value for colleges or employers. (Peter D. Hart, 2008).”

    The statement relies on a meta analysis done by the National Research Council (cited) that showed exit exams did little expect suppress graduation rates particularly for disadvantaged students. Stanford University (not cited here) also did a study, specifically on the CAHSEE , that demonstrated it did not support increased learning, depressed HS graduation rates, and was particularly onerous for Hispanic females.

    It might also be mentioned here that every legitimate professional organization that deals with education psychometrics warns against using any one assessment to make significant decisions about students’ programs. Obviously, HS exit exams represent an almost perfect abuse of testing by the standards of the professional organizations. In simple terms it would be like going to your doctor and getting your temperature taken, and then the doctor deciding to do open heart surgery based on that information.

  2. Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

    So it seems there was a glitch, or disconnect, between the actions of the CDE and delayed action in the legislature to remedy issues of kids caught in the policy cracks and CAHSEE cancelation. Then the board in SF, as well as the CSU system (there being it appears no issues with the UC system), took action to see that the kids were not penalized for the glitches. Seems like, from some opinions expressed, this … Read More

    So it seems there was a glitch, or disconnect, between the actions of the CDE and delayed action in the legislature to remedy issues of kids caught in the policy cracks and CAHSEE cancelation. Then the board in SF, as well as the CSU system (there being it appears no issues with the UC system), took action to see that the kids were not penalized for the glitches. Seems like, from some opinions expressed, this is s case of no good deed going unpunished.

    My opinion is: Good on ’em.

  3. Ann McCrummen 1 year ago1 year ago

    I hope all of the parents whose kids PASSED the exit exam, who got tutors for their children, helped them study, listened to their anxiety over passing....I hope these people get a massive class action suit against the state of California for once again giving kids who haven't earned it a free pass. Thanks for flooding the workforce with incompetent young adults. The ONLY reason this test is going away is because TEACHERS … Read More

    I hope all of the parents whose kids PASSED the exit exam, who got tutors for their children, helped them study, listened to their anxiety over passing….I hope these people get a massive class action suit against the state of California for once again giving kids who haven’t earned it a free pass. Thanks for flooding the workforce with incompetent young adults. The ONLY reason this test is going away is because TEACHERS aren’t smart enough to teach it anymore. We are dumbing down our schools more and more to accommodate lazy teachers who just phone it in. THAT”S why California is 7th from the BOTTOM in education. Way to go, Governor Moonbeam and the CDE. Thanks for selling our kids down the river.

  4. Doug McRae 1 year ago1 year ago

    Yes, there is need for urgent action by the legislature to address the blunder by the SSPI and CDE cancelling the July CAHSEE. But the real culprit is the premature ham-handed suspension of CAHSEE via SB 172, and its extension over to the unwise premature implementation of Smarter Balanced tests now causing time and money problems for the SSPI and CDE. This story runs much deeper than covered by this EdSource post. SB 172 calls for … Read More

    Yes, there is need for urgent action by the legislature to address the blunder by the SSPI and CDE cancelling the July CAHSEE. But the real culprit is the premature ham-handed suspension of CAHSEE via SB 172, and its extension over to the unwise premature implementation of Smarter Balanced tests now causing time and money problems for the SSPI and CDE. This story runs much deeper than covered by this EdSource post.

    SB 172 calls for suspension of the CAHSEE graduation requirement immediately, but its rationale does not hold water. The SSPI rationale (the SSPI is the sponsor for 172) is that CAHSEE does not measure the common core. But, the common core addresses college and career readiness, not the basic skills needed for high school graduation. And to boot, students from the Class of 2015 (and 2016 and 2017 for that matter) were not taught via common core instruction since most high schools have yet to implement common core instruction in CA. The CAHSEE given in May still does an adequate job of measuring the minimum achievement needed for a CA high school diploma, as documented many times by CAHSEE’s independent evaluation reports. Why suspend CAHSEE immediately, when it is mandated by current statute and has an approved budget of $11 million for 2015-16? That’s clear — the desire to bias reasonable legislative consideration whether or not to continue a statewide graduation requirement program given upcoming implementation of common core and other changes in the overall statewide assessment program, with such consideration logical for the 2016 legislative session.

    To fast forward that initiative, the SSPI and CDE used administrative malfeasance last spring not to procure a vendor to administer CAHSEE for 2015-16, even though it was mandated by statute and had an approved budget. Could a vendor have been procured? Of course it could have, either by a short low cost extension of the current vendor contract or by a quick (less than 6 weeks elapsed time) competitive bid for CAHSEE administrations until the status of 172 was resolved. The SSPI and CDE rationale for not procuring a CAHSEE administration vendor also does not hold water, and that blunder led to leaving thousands of kids from the Class of 2015 in the lurch.

    But the story continues. As the 2015-16 budget was finalized last June, trailer bill language was added to address the $11 million for CAHSEE administration for 2015-16, budgetary fine print to the effect that if SB 172 passed, the $11 million would be re-directed to other components of the statewide testing program which were already fully budgeted for 2015-16. How might the extra $11 million be used? Well, directly or indirectly it might be used to cover looming cost overruns with the new Smarter Balanced tests. In mid-June, CDE reported that of the 3.2 million students administered the new SBAC on-line tests, upwards of 15 percent started but did not finish the tests. Typically with statewide tests, only 1-2 percent start but do not complete tests. Resolving scoring issues for a 10 times overload of incomplete tests requires additional time [last week we learned from CDE the scheduled release of Smarter Balanced results would be delayed until September], and with production contracts additional time translates to additional costs. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to deduce the extra $11 million from cancelling CAHSEE for 2015-16 could help cushion the blow for Smarter Balanced scoring additional costs.

    The final chapter of this story deals with whether the results of the 2015 Smarter Balanced program will hold water — whether the results will be valid reliable and fair for the 3.2 million students administered the test. This chapter has yet to play out, since the results are under cover at the CDE [the SSPI and CDE and most local districts have had preliminary results since late June]. But the prospects for valid reliable and fair results are dim, since one requirement for adequate technical quality is that instruction on the material being tested has been implemented for the vast majority of kids administered the test. The best information is that only 1/2 to 2/3 of LEAs in California have implemented common core instruction as of spring 2015. As Dave Gordon (Sac Co Supt) said 18 months ago in the Sac Bee — It just isn’t fair to test kids on material they haven’t been taught. Yet that is what CA has done with Smarter Balanced tests this last spring.

    The SSPI and CDE, with inadequate oversight from the SBE, has made a royal mess of not only execution of the statutory CAHSEE program as illustrated by this EdSource post, but also the larger transition to a new state assessment program by attempting to measure common core instruction before it has been implemented. To put invalid unreliable unfair scores in the permanent records for upwards of 3.2 million students will be an injustice for many more kids than were affected by the immediate CAHSEE blunder now being reported.

    Replies

    • Parent 1 year ago1 year ago

      Good luck with that – seeing as SB 172 was written and endorsed by the CTA in their unending quest to avoid accountability. Maybe you can get the reserve caps lifted as well.

      • Ann McCrummen 1 year ago1 year ago

        I forgot to add that it just FIGURES that San Francisco ignores the law and makes their own decision. This “Sanctuary City” needs to have all of their federal funding STRIPPED and then they can figure out how to support their own left wing causes.

        • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

          Interesting that the far right constantly jabbers about their fears of the government implementing a “police state” along with FEMA camps to hold all political opponents. Now the right seems to be endorsing establishing a police state to round up 11 to 12 million men, women, and children for deportation and presumably, FEMA (aka, concentration) camps to hold the millions while transportation (hundreds crammed into boxcars?) is made available.

          Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, as the man said.

    • SD Parent 1 year ago1 year ago

      You said it, Doug. This dearth of critical thinking happens at all levels in education, from district to state. For example, in our district (San Diego Unified), they have been offering years of incentivized early retirement programs that were supposed to avoid lay-offs and save the district money. Yet these programs have cost the district tens of millions of dollars, and the district ends up hiring back the retirees as substitutes to … Read More

      You said it, Doug. This dearth of critical thinking happens at all levels in education, from district to state. For example, in our district (San Diego Unified), they have been offering years of incentivized early retirement programs that were supposed to avoid lay-offs and save the district money. Yet these programs have cost the district tens of millions of dollars, and the district ends up hiring back the retirees as substitutes to make up for the teacher shortage. At the state level, the powers that be–Legislature, SBE, and the Governor–keep telling school districts that they support local control under LCFF, but the same folks are still stalling to fix the fine print that was added to Prop 2 that requires school districts to dump their reserves in years of more abundant state revenue, despite the fact that the state has a long history of unstable education financing.

      And who suffers the consequences of this lack of thought? Kids, it’s always the kids….

  5. Don 1 year ago1 year ago

    When the Commissioners of the SF Board of Education took the Oath of Office to follow the Law, did that oath only apply to those laws for which they feel a personal affinity? The reporter may not be familiar with the SF BOE, but this is a classic example of grandstanding, SFUSD-style. No wonder they wanted a ban on willful defiance. The commissioners could have waiting just a few days to issue legal … Read More

    When the Commissioners of the SF Board of Education took the Oath of Office to follow the Law, did that oath only apply to those laws for which they feel a personal affinity? The reporter may not be familiar with the SF BOE, but this is a classic example of grandstanding, SFUSD-style. No wonder they wanted a ban on willful defiance. The commissioners could have waiting just a few days to issue legal rather than the illegal diplomas once the Governor signs the bill, but that would have removed their opportunity to make a big splash. For that matter hey could have done this 3 months ago on the pretense that time was running out for some students. But, no! They wait for the last moment to grab the media spotlight and then call themselves forward-thinkers. These are most of same people who claimed to have the highest performing urban school district in California despite the worst ethnic subgroup achievement numbers in the state and with no thanks to the hardworking Asians who made that statistical spin possible. So when Superintendent Carranza said that SFUSD is always the first to break ground, to lead, did he mean in regard to breaking the laws of the great state of California? I mean, the formerly great state of Ecualifornia.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

      So true. 75% of these people would have failed. I'd like to see how many actually graduate college. They've all shown horrible character in failing this easy test many times before. They should have given it to them a month earlier and if they fail, go to CCSF. These kids didn't work hard in high school or middle school or elementary school and neither did their parents. They don't … Read More

      So true. 75% of these people would have failed. I’d like to see how many actually graduate college. They’ve all shown horrible character in failing this easy test many times before. They should have given it to them a month earlier and if they fail, go to CCSF. These kids didn’t work hard in high school or middle school or elementary school and neither did their parents. They don’t deserve a diploma just for showing up. They barely learned a thing.

    • Doug McRae 1 year ago1 year ago

      Don — That’s a cheap shot attempting to discredit the SF Unified board for it’s action on the CAHSEE fiasco caused by SSPI and CDE malfeasance in Sacramento. The SF Unified board should be congratulated for exposing the injustice caused by SSPI and CDE actions, and the SF Chronicle should be congratulated for exposing the fiasco to a wider audience.

      • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

        Doug, all your great background information notwithstanding, let's step back for a moment. First of all, the SF BOE was or should have been well aware that students without a diploma would encounter problems with college admission since the cancellation of CAHSEE in May might impact their future college admission status. Surely the Board of Education knows what a diploma is and what it offers. So why did it wait these months to rectify … Read More

        Doug, all your great background information notwithstanding, let’s step back for a moment. First of all, the SF BOE was or should have been well aware that students without a diploma would encounter problems with college admission since the cancellation of CAHSEE in May might impact their future college admission status. Surely the Board of Education knows what a diploma is and what it offers. So why did it wait these months to rectify the problem and then only do so a matter of \ days before the state fixes it? The timing doesn’t add up and appears to be a media stunt. If they wanted the students to avoid these problems they were too late. The claim that they learned just recently that students weren’t accepted is just plain ridiculous. What did they think would happen? I suppose the summer vacations may have gotten in the way of a more expeditious intervention by the SFUSD Board.

        With that said, it should be remembered that these students have had multiple shots to pass the test and have failed repeatedly to do so. Had the test been given the likelihood of passage was low. That means these students are not victims of the cancellation but rather beneficiaries of it with the CAHSEE exemption the Governor will sign shortly in his reprised role as the Wizard of Oz.

        Now we could have a good discussion on the merits of CAHSEE and whether a student who has fulfilled all other graduation requirements should be deprived of a diploma for failing to pass one test. That is not the issue at hand, though with social promotion and the fact that grades have lost their cache in part, a test of 9th grade proficiency doesn’t seem too much to ask of 12th grader. Don’t you agree? Anyway, in a world in which money is printed arbitrarily, why worry over a high school diploma?

        Carranza’s last minute rescue doesn’t accomplish anything. If a child is drowning you don’t wait all summer to plan a rescue. This is the same man who claimed he wouldn’t impose a ban on willful defiance suspensions out of “respect” for his site administrators’ judgements on the ground, then promptly lost that respect and advocated for the ban when it was politically opportune. He is the same man who as a high SFUSD official claimed credit for SFUSD’s stellar aggregate API without mentioning how Asians made that possible when his subgroup minorities had the lowest scores of any urban district in the state. The same man that called SFUSD’s SIG program a big success when it failed miserably for most schools. Now he’s grabbing the media spotlight as some savior of students. The real savior of those students is, ironically, the screw up a the state level that led to the cancellation and pending exemption.

        • CarolineSF 1 year ago1 year ago

          In almost every case, the students in question were recent newcomer students who are still mastering English, and whose CAHSEE failure was in the English portion because it was given in a language they're still learning. I have to call this out once again, because it's not really valid -- Don's statement: "These are most of same people who claimed to have the highest performing urban school district in California despite the worst ethnic … Read More

          In almost every case, the students in question were recent newcomer students who are still mastering English, and whose CAHSEE failure was in the English portion because it was given in a language they’re still learning.

          I have to call this out once again, because it’s not really valid — Don’s statement: “These are most of same people who claimed to have the highest performing urban school district in California despite the worst ethnic subgroup achievement numbers in the state and with no thanks to the hardworking Asians who made that statistical spin possible.”

          ALL schools and ALL districts’ achievement numbers correlate with either their demographic makeup or (in the case of certain schools) their selection processes, overt (Lowell) or covert (“miracle” charters). Every single one. (Of course there are individual students who are exceptions, but overall with school and districts, this is just how it is, period. Sad, but it’s reality.) I saw a brochure from the Burlingame school district touting its high achievement numbers — yes, because it’s filthy rich. So it’s not valid to criticize one district for doing the same thing when it’s universal.

          This is why the savvy referred to the old API accountability system — officially Academic Performance Index — as the Affluent Parent Index.

          • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

            The difference between your contention that every district spins the numbers and what happens here in SFUSD is that this district repeatedly promoted itself as the HIGHEST performing urban school district when on closer inspection the reality is it has the lowest minority subgroup performance of any urban school district. That it formerly had the highest API as of 2012 is a neat little trick made possible by an Asian component 4 times … Read More

            The difference between your contention that every district spins the numbers and what happens here in SFUSD is that this district repeatedly promoted itself as the HIGHEST performing urban school district when on closer inspection the reality is it has the lowest minority subgroup performance of any urban school district. That it formerly had the highest API as of 2012 is a neat little trick made possible by an Asian component 4 times the average size and a leadership willing and able to distort the media presentation to an unsuspecting public through the omission of material facts.

            • CarolineSF 1 year ago1 year ago

              It's not that every district spins the numbers, nor that SFUSD does. You're saying SFUSD touts its numbers without explaining that they're correlated with/caused by demographics, but as I say, all districts with high numbers do that, and all schools with high numbers do that (in the case of schools, demographics or selectivity or both). And districts and schools get bashed for low numbers that are also correlated with/caused by demographics. That's the way the … Read More

              It’s not that every district spins the numbers, nor that SFUSD does. You’re saying SFUSD touts its numbers without explaining that they’re correlated with/caused by demographics, but as I say, all districts with high numbers do that, and all schools with high numbers do that (in the case of schools, demographics or selectivity or both). And districts and schools get bashed for low numbers that are also correlated with/caused by demographics. That’s the way the discussion goes. You can’t call SFUSD out without calling every high-scoring district and school out.

            • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

              Caroline, your point is that they all do it so why pick on SFUSD. None of the other districts said they were the top, the best, when in fact it was the bottom, the worst. Carranza and his board patsies are not only not bothered by taking the spotlight off the on-going failure to lift the SF's minorities out of the academic gutter, they are reveling in their success, throwing parties at 555 and putting … Read More

              Caroline, your point is that they all do it so why pick on SFUSD. None of the other districts said they were the top, the best, when in fact it was the bottom, the worst. Carranza and his board patsies are not only not bothered by taking the spotlight off the on-going failure to lift the SF’s minorities out of the academic gutter, they are reveling in their success, throwing parties at 555 and putting out press releases that effectively say, “we won”. They won’t admit they are doing a poor job having the lowest minority results among the large urban districts. This contrivance is based on the idea that the leadership can fool the public and get away with it. And your apologist-oriented excuse, Caroline, just feeds the fire of disrespect for accountability by district public servant who want to make themselves look good at the expense of students. And, of course, in SFUSD it is only because students, Asians in particular, that they are able to do that. The point is SFUSD failed the majority of their students. That goes unreported, but, hey, they’re all doing it. You should get a job in PR.

              I don’t know if Ms. Harrington realizes it, but her 2-year old article supports the idea that this sort of obfuscation is not what we should expect from our public schools. There are real victims when people don’t take responsibility for their failures, but all you have to say, Caroline, is it’s par for the course. Great job as a parent advocate. Shheess…

            • Theresa Harrington 1 year ago1 year ago

              Don, The fact that we should not expect obfuscation from school districts was the point of that blog post.

            • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

              Yes, Ms. Harrington. Thank you for writing that piece. Maybe you can instruct Jill Tucker on the purpose of reporting.

            • CarolineSF 1 year ago1 year ago

              Yes, my point is that that's the standard, default, normal, ordinary way to report the scores (the API is basically what we're talking about). Does Burlingame's flyer touting its high scores include a disclaimer that oh yeah, it has no poor kids, so the boast is completely invalid? No, it doesn't. Should it? I'm not a fan of judging schools or districts by their test scores OR obfuscating, and for years I blogged as a … Read More

              Yes, my point is that that’s the standard, default, normal, ordinary way to report the scores (the API is basically what we’re talking about). Does Burlingame’s flyer touting its high scores include a disclaimer that oh yeah, it has no poor kids, so the boast is completely invalid? No, it doesn’t. Should it?

              I’m not a fan of judging schools or districts by their test scores OR obfuscating, and for years I blogged as a volunteer advocate about covert selectivity issues. (That included crunching non-backfilled attrition numbers and applying for my daughter to a “miracle” school to test whether the school would require a test — which it denied publicly but which it in fact did.)

              I’m just saying that it’s not valid to single out San Francisco for reporting its achievement the standard, default, normal, ordinary way. Every reference to a wealthy district’s “good schools” is doing the same thing — mentioning achievement levels without the disclaimer that they correlate with student income level. Within the past hour I just saw such a reference in the mainstream press to Menlo Park’s “good schools,” for example. To be consistent, every single mention of a wealthy district’s “good schools” would need that same disclaimer.

              The appropriate criticism would be to object to the fact that this IS the standard, default, normal, ordinary way, not single out one district that does it the same way they all do and hammer it for doing so.

            • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

              Caroline, SFUSD is not like other districts. It has a hyper focus on providing extra resources for underperforming students and it uses the bulk of it monetary and political capital to press for equity and diversity. It spends a huge amount of its budget to tackle the achievement gap. As the most progressive school district in California and as part of it budget policy its leadership spends its resources pressing for social justice … Read More

              Caroline, SFUSD is not like other districts. It has a hyper focus on providing extra resources for underperforming students and it uses the bulk of it monetary and political capital to press for equity and diversity. It spends a huge amount of its budget to tackle the achievement gap. As the most progressive school district in California and as part of it budget policy its leadership spends its resources pressing for social justice in education and an end to the achievement gap, which it calls the civil rights issue of our time. And arguably it is, but when it comes time to report to the people of this city on how well it is doing in narrowing that gap, which it invokes with plaintives pleas on a daily basis, then the SFUSD leadership conveniently transforms into another animal and becomes just like every other district, as you say, and forgets to mention that the gap is just as bad as ever.

            • CarolineSF 1 year ago1 year ago

              So your point is that SFUSD should be held to a different standard than all other districts. And same with Ms. Harrington’s on the two districts she blogged about. (Because otherwise, Walnut Creek and Orinda and Mill Valley et al. would be including a “but we have no poor kids” disclaimer with every announcement about test scores.) (Well, Orinda did let one in after a big outcry…)

            • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

              Yes. It should actually hold itself to a higher standard because it claims to hold itself to a higher standard. So I think it’s fair to say they should be who they claim to be. Please let me know if you find that’s unfair. I’ll leave it here.

            • navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

              Wow don, you're starting to sound like me! good job. ;-) Note that this is exactly the issue I had with burriss' piece. Anyway, you're both right. School districts intentionally obscure and even manipulate their demographics as a way to increase test scores and perceptions surrounding them. This is because the general public has no patience for things it does not understand; it sees disaggregation as an 'excuse' and not an explanation. And in the end, that's … Read More

              Wow don, you’re starting to sound like me! good job. 😉

              Note that this is exactly the issue I had with burriss’ piece.

              Anyway, you’re both right. School districts intentionally obscure and even manipulate their demographics as a way to increase test scores and perceptions surrounding them. This is because the general public has no patience for things it does not understand; it sees disaggregation as an ‘excuse’ and not an explanation. And in the end, that’s how the game was set up. And its one reason nitpicking about the minutae related to API calculation, and score manipulation, and demographics, etc etc is so relevant in ‘education’ ‘discussions’.
              This irony in SF’s case is that being a bit more honest would likely result in a real, negative impact on the district. Because, well, in politics, humans are the ‘customer’.

            • CarolineSF 1 year ago1 year ago

              I don't know if it would have a negative impact on the district, Navigio. The honest, though possibly non-PC, explanation, would be: SFUSD's high overall scores correlate with the fact that Asian students are its plurality subgroup, and Asian students tend (overall on average) to be the highest achievers of all demographics. Its relatively small number of white students also are high achievers. Its large number of Latino students and small numbers of black and … Read More

              I don’t know if it would have a negative impact on the district, Navigio. The honest, though possibly non-PC, explanation, would be: SFUSD’s high overall scores correlate with the fact that Asian students are its plurality subgroup, and Asian students tend (overall on average) to be the highest achievers of all demographics. Its relatively small number of white students also are high achievers. Its large number of Latino students and small numbers of black and Pacific Islander students tend (overall on average) to be low-income and on the wrong side of the achievement gap.

              If you were a non-low-income parent considering the school district, though, you might find it quite appealing to have your kids in a district where the plurality was Asian students who tended to be high achievers, and where the non-low-income students tended to be high achievers. If you were a low-income parent considering the district, you might also find it appealing to have your child in a district that wasn’t overwhelmed by a critical mass of high-need, impoverished students, even with that troubling achievement gap.

              The thing that I find annoying is the wealthy districts that tout their test scores without the asterisk of “yeah, but we have no poor kids,” and the endless, often clueless, puffery of wealthy districts’ “good schools” without that asterisk. So that’s why I’m questioning picking on SFUSD for reporting its scores in the same way that all other districts do. Meanwhile, as usual the comfy, wealthy districts have it easiest and utterly escape criticism.