In advance of EdSource’s October 6, 2016 symposium, “California’s New Vision for School Success,” we asked David Plank a few key questions of interest to symposium participants.
Plank is the executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), a research center based at Stanford University.
EdSource: How might the new accountability system make a difference in raising achievement of English learners and low-performing minority students?
David: California’s new accountability system remains a work in progress, but it offers huge promise for the state’s students, including those facing the greatest challenges. The new system abandons what was previously a monomaniacal focus on student test scores to pay attention to multiple dimensions of school performance, including student growth, parental engagement and school climate. It adopts a very different theory of change, shifting from past efforts to identify and punish “failing” schools toward a system that supports continuous improvement in school performance.
EdSource: What will be the biggest challenges moving ahead?
David: These are big changes, and to ensure that the new accountability framework delivers on its promise California will have to overcome two big challenges. The first is the construction of an effective infrastructure to support continuous improvement, which depends fundamentally on leadership from the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence and the 58 County Offices of Education. The second is to transform the culture at all levels of California’s education system from one focused on compliance with state regulations to one focused on innovation, organizational learning, and continuous improvement. The great danger facing the new system is that key policy actors will lose patience with the new system without allowing the time necessary for these changes to unfold.