California’s largest school district signaled Tuesday that it would reject a proposal to rank its schools on a 1 to 5 scale.
The Los Angeles Unified school board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee approved a resolution introduced by board member Jackie Goldberg that calls for the district to suspend implementation of “any use of stars, scores, or any other rating system” for its schools.
The committee’s action includes a shift in support by Kelly Gonez, who says she now opposes assigning single ratings to schools. Gonez last year co-sponsored a resolution with board member Nick Melvoin that called for creating a school performance framework that would include a “single, summative rating for each school.” The board approved that resolution in April 2018.
Goldberg’s resolution, which is expected to pass when it goes before the full board Nov. 5, would effectively kill the idea to give all schools in the district a single rating, which Melvoin says would allow the district to better identify and help struggling schools.
Opponents note that assigning a summative rating would be at odds with the California School Dashboard, which uses color codes to rate schools across a number of factors but does not give them a single score or rating. They also say that high-poverty schools would disproportionately receive lower ratings, further stigmatizing those schools.
School board member George McKenna, chair of the curriculum committee, said during Tuesday’s meeting that struggling schools “know they have needs. And we try to help them overcome those needs without putting a number on them. When you rank one school against another, you’re giving that whole community a value.”
The three board members on the committee — McKenna, Scott Schmerelson and Gonez — voted unanimously to send Goldberg’s resolution to the full board, where it needs four votes to pass. Board member Richard Vladovic also indicated to EdSource that he supports the new resolution. Goldberg’s expected vote would give the resolution a five-vote majority on the seven-member board.
Melvoin, in a statement, said he was “disappointed by today’s vote,” and said he would continue pushing for summative rating data “accessible to parents and school communities.”
He said such a rating system would allow LA Unified “to provide support where it may be needed, so that we can work toward the continuous improvement of all our schools.”
Goldberg’s resolution says that summative rankings “promote unhealthy competition between schools” and “penalize schools that serve socioeconomically disadvantaged student populations.”
The resolution was supported by two key labor groups: the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles and United Teachers Los Angeles.
Daniel Barnhart, a secondary vice president of UTLA, said at Tuesday’s hearing that assigning schools a summative rating would be the equivalent to “Yelp for our schools.”
“Every school in this district faces different types of challenges. Even our most successful schools, they have things going on that we need to improve, as well as schools that are struggling,” he said. “Having a grading system is unlikely to help.”
Efforts to rank schools stem from the LA Unified school board voting last year to approve the creation of a school performance framework that would combine academic and school climate factors into “one comprehensive picture of school success” and create a single rating for each school.
But Gonez, who co-authored that resolution with Melvoin, said Tuesday that she agrees with criticisms of summative ratings.
“I think a system like that does simplify things in a way that isn’t helpful and could stigmatize schools,” she said.
Gonez added, however, that she still supports having a “broader set of data than is currently available” through the California School Dashboard. The dashboard, which launched in 2017, measures factors including chronic absenteeism rates, graduation rates and suspension rates, without giving schools a single rating. It replaced the Academic Performance Index, which did give schools a single number rating based on test scores.
Gonez noted that the new dashboard does not measure student growth, which she called a “critical piece” that the district should track. Student growth data would measure how students progress from one year to the next.
Vladovic similarly said he is in support of the district having more information about its schools but added that he is opposed to assigning single ratings to schools.
“That’s a label, and then all of a sudden you draw a conclusion and that represents the school,” he said. “That’s not an accurate representation. Who does that help? It doesn’t help the youngsters, who we need to inspire. We need to provide them with the finest instruction in the world. But we need to believe in them.”