State board backs plans for California’s first college and career readiness indicator

July 13, 2016

Students at Millikan High in Long Beach study for the SAT.

Despite concerns, the State Board of Education on Wednesday approved a preliminary version of California’s first College and Career Readiness Indicator, a tool aimed at measuring how schools prepare students for postsecondary opportunities.

The metric would evaluate high schools and districts by their students’ Advanced Placement test scores, the number of students concurrently enrolled in community colleges, how many successfully completed a career technical education pathway, how many completed courses required for UC and CSU admission, and other measures.

The College and Career Indicator is part of the state’s overall effort to create a new school accountability system that is based on multiple measures rather than primarily on test scores.

The board also gave preliminary approval to a series of other measures that will be part of the new system, which is replacing the Academic Performance Index and the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The board is expecting to approve the system in September. Board members tentatively backed a new color-coded colored report card as a way of explaining the achievement of every school and district, but asked staff with the Department of Education to work on simplifying it to make it easier for parents to understand.

The board’s vote came after nearly seven hours of contentious debate, during which board members examined the proposed report cards in minute detail. They also listened to public testimony from close to 100 people who weighed in on the latest step in implementing one of the most comprehensive education reform efforts in California in decades.

For the College and Career Readiness Indicator, the board gave unanimous approval even as some members said it failed to do enough to measure how well schools prepare students for careers. Department staff said it would continue refining the indicator, and could add and remove some ingredients before it goes back to the board for final adoption.

“This system is not intended to be static. The system is intended to be continuously improved over time,” the department’s Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley told board members. “Know that what you’re seeing today won’t be exactly what you see in September, nor will it be the same moving on.”

Ashley said that Wednesday’s input from board members and upcoming meetings with stakeholders, which include college and career readiness experts, school administrators, business leaders and parent groups, would help the state refine the indicator, which would go into effect for the 2017-18 school year.

“This system is not intended to be static. The system is intended to be continuously improved over time,” said Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley.

The preliminary College and Career Indicator presented to the board would measure high schools and districts by the percentage of students who are designated as “Well Prepared,” “Prepared,” “Approaching Prepared” and “Not Yet Prepared.”

Here’s how students would qualify for each category:

Well Prepared: Meet one of the following

Prepared: Meet one of the following

Approaching Prepared: Meet one of the following

Not Yet Prepared: The student did not meet any of the measures above and has not yet demonstrated readiness for college and career.

Department staff removed SAT and ACT scores, which were included in earlier versions of the College and Career Readiness Indicator, after it determined AP exam and 11th-grade Smarter Balanced scores provide a similar indicator of college readiness.

Several board members said they worried that the indicator leaned heavily toward measuring college readiness over career readiness.

Source: California Department of Education webast

State Board of Education member Patricia Rucker

“I don’t like this model I see here. It’s all academics, academics, academics,” said board member Patricia Rucker. “There should be more balance. There is no diversity on how we define career access and career preparation in this model.”

Jenny Singh, administrator with the department’s academic accountability unit, said the state currently collects limited data to measure the quality of technical education courses and career pathways.

Sheryl Ryder, executive director for career technical education at the Placer County Office of Education, said many districts are currently collecting career readiness data that the state could use in the new metric, including students in internships, work-based learning, job shadowing opportunities and work experience.

Only districts that applied for the state’s Career Pathways Trust Initiative and similar grant programs are currently required to collect this data, but collection could be expanded statewide, Ryder said.

Once implemented, California will be among a minority of states with a wide-ranging measurement for college and career readiness built into their school accountability systems.

According to a report from Achieve, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based college and career advocacy group, 17 states include at least one measure of college or career readiness in their accountability formulas. They include dual enrollment data, ACT/SAT scores, CTE course enrollment figures, and the number of graduates each year who enroll in two- and four-year colleges and universities.

States such as Indiana, Georgia, Delaware and Montana offer among the most comprehensive career readiness indicators, which include measuring the number of students with industry certifications, the percentage of graduates completing work-based learning programs, and the number of graduates placed in occupations directly related to their training.

Board member Ilene Straus said California is definitely moving in the right direction compared to what the state has done in the past and what other states are now doing.

“But we need some more work on this… Everyone agrees we need a college and career readiness indicator, but we’re not there yet,” she said.

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