Long Beach Unified Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser

As California prepares to adopt its new multiple-measure school accountability system, the CORE Districts can offer firsthand experience and data to inform the transition and ongoing policy work. The CORE Districts, representing Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Fresno, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento unified districts, have a six-year history of collaboration and three years of experience under a federal waiver for school and district accountability. Sharing the lessons we are learning can help inform California and the nation.

More than 1,600 schools serving more than 1 million students and their families are situated in the CORE Districts, and they already are supported by the type of continuous improvement and accountability the state seeks. In fact, the CORE Districts’ accountability model uses measures that are more robust than the accountability system being developed by the state.

The CORE Districts’ system is similar to the state’s emerging accountability system in important ways, including its use of state-collected data on test scores, graduation rates, chronic absenteeism, suspension rates and information about English learners.

But for a more complete picture of school performance, the CORE Districts’ accountability index also takes into account growth in student performance over time, the extent to which 8th graders are ready to enter high school and measures of students’ social-emotional skills and of a school’s overall “climate.” A school’s climate refers to factors such as the level of support students receive for academic learning, the perceived fairness of discipline, the sense of safety experienced by students, as well as the extent to which they feel they belong or are connected to their school.

Educators in the CORE Districts believe responding to these combined academic and non-academic measures is key to ensuring schools are best preparing students for colleges and careers.

Data evaluation for the CORE Districts is conducted by the independent, nonpartisan research center Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), which helps us look at state and locally generated data in multiple ways. Together we evaluate and disseminate useful data with our schools and districts. Sharing our successes and failures and working together, we promote innovation and bring new strategies to scale. Our data helps to pinpoint the needs of students, learn more about schools that are excelling and the strategies they are using, and identify schools in need of additional support.

A recent CORE-PACE report highlights how schools can be identified for support and improvement using a multiple-measure framework. Using the CORE Districts’ data, the report illustrates how different academic indicators measure very different aspects of school performance. The report illustrates the tradeoffs between using a single summative score to identify schools for support and improvement versus a more tiered approach.

Our data also show the significance of including non-academic measures such as culture and climate and postsecondary readiness in the process for identifying schools in need of support and improvement. Our research shows how data can influence and identify a clear path forward to improve student outcomes in our lowest performing schools. The ability to continue to explore and refine both academic and non-academic accountability measures is imperative to support educational priorities identified in state and federal laws.

In a recent letter to the Fordham Institute, California State Board of Education President Michael Kirst previewed some of the broad policy decisions the state and federal government face. He wrote “this is a difficult task and will require continuous improvement…. some patience with the people charged with implementing these laws is needed.” We couldn’t agree more.

To help inform state and federal policy decisions moving forward, the CORE Districts are proposing to serve as a research pilot. Among many benefits, a pilot will allow the state to further explore how multiple measures for school accountability and improvement interact in the CORE Districts.

Research pilots are not new. In fact, they are commonly used in educational settings to explore promising practices. For example, Long Beach Unified, one of the CORE Districts, grants flexibility to local schools as research pilots for the district. The pilots allow schools to explore new instructional practices and resource allocations that can be replicated to help improve student outcomes districtwide. California now has an opportunity to designate the CORE Districts as a research pilot for statewide purposes.

Under the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act, states have waiver authority to use innovative practices in local districts to help design new state accountability systems.

By serving as a research pilot and sharing data on multiple measures, the CORE Districts can help ensure a coherent accountability system that best serves California’s students, educators, schools and districts.

•••

Christopher J. Steinhauser is the superintendent of Long Beach Unified School District and a member of the CORE Districts’ board of directors.

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  1. Don 8 months ago8 months ago

    Gates, Bechtel, Hewlett, Packard, Irvine, Stuart, Silver Giving are funders of the CORE group, the surrogate for these interests. Why are such foundations able to institute changes without local oversight or input? The answer starts with the letter M.

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 8 months ago8 months ago

      I think you have it backwards, Don. The superintendents of the CORE districts sought a waiver from the federal government to create a school accountability index using multiple measures (which the state, two years later is about to adopt), and the help from foundations subsequently enabled the superintendents to launch district priorities. Teachers unions opposed the waiver and resent not being consulted, but the superintendents acted within their authority, and in the case of Long … Read More

      I think you have it backwards, Don. The superintendents of the CORE districts sought a waiver from the federal government to create a school accountability index using multiple measures (which the state, two years later is about to adopt), and the help from foundations subsequently enabled the superintendents to launch district priorities. Teachers unions opposed the waiver and resent not being consulted, but the superintendents acted within their authority, and in the case of Long Beach, incorporated the findings of the School Quality Improvement Index reports in the district LCAP and school site plans.

      • Don 8 months ago8 months ago

        John, unfortunately my comment was too cryptic. The foundations are not asserting their influence over development of dashboard parameters for altruistic reasons. Their end game has to do with privatization. Charter schools are poised to respond better and faster to theses new diluted accountability measures relative to TPSs. The dashboard is a Trojan Horse to remedy the the charter industry's thorn in the side, a general failure to outperform their non-charter peers. … Read More

        John, unfortunately my comment was too cryptic. The foundations are not asserting their influence over development of dashboard parameters for altruistic reasons. Their end game has to do with privatization. Charter schools are poised to respond better and faster to theses new diluted accountability measures relative to TPSs. The dashboard is a Trojan Horse to remedy the the charter industry’s thorn in the side, a general failure to outperform their non-charter peers.

        I tend to see ed issues through the lens of SFUSD. As a CORE district we have been using these new measures for over 2 years now. If increasing attendance and school climate and decreasing suspensions and expulsions have a salutary effect on achievement on low performing schools we are still waiting for it to show itself. If, on the other hand, they are merely ways to make schools appear more successful in the face of an intransigent achievement gap, they are working their magic. But therein is the rub. The real beneficiary of the dashboard approach will be the charter sector. The real loser will be the public school students for whom student achievement will be less of a factor in the new fantasmagorical bubble of public education.

        • John Fensterwald 8 months ago8 months ago

          Quite a conspiracy theory, Don, and the logic escapes me.

  2. Bill Younglove 8 months ago8 months ago

    Chris – and CORE – are right on target. Whether such data are called "via a dashboard," "tiered," or even "non-academic" measures," they all contribute to a picture; not, thankfully, a snapshot, of student growth. As one who has taught in ten educational environments for a half century now, I can tell you that the culture of each site, speaking broadly, had everything to do, ultimately, with how well the students on those campuses did. Read More

    Chris – and CORE – are right on target. Whether such data are called “via a dashboard,” “tiered,” or even “non-academic” measures,” they all contribute to a picture; not, thankfully, a snapshot, of student growth. As one who has taught in ten educational environments for a half century now, I can tell you that the culture of each site, speaking broadly, had everything to do, ultimately, with how well the students on those campuses did.

    Replies

    • Don 8 months ago8 months ago

      Bill, I don’t understand how it is that data on attendance, suspensions and expulsions or school climate informs or paints a clearer picture of student growth. My child doesn’t grow because someone else eats their vegetables. Or have we so dehumanized the system that we look at growth only as it relates to groups? If we are accountable only to groups, woe unto the individual.