Laurie Udesky/EdSource Today
Students take Smarter Balanced practice tests at Bayshore Elementary School in Daly City.

Changing its earlier position, the California Department of Education will release Smarter Balanced test scores next month and not wait to incorporate them into other data as planned, a department official said Tuesday.

“There is no reason to withhold the data,” Malika Vella, deputy superintendent of the initiatives branch of the department, said Tuesday morning on KPCC Public Radio’s show “Air Talk” in Los Angeles.

The department had told EdSource earlier this month in response to a public records request that the data was not complete and would be held until later in the year, when it would be released as part of a dashboard that would include other, holistic, student indicators, such as absentee rates.

The data is expected to show pandemic-related declines in student achievement.

Vella’s public announcement means the data will be released prior to voters going to the polls on Nov. 8. They will be choosing between incumbent Tony Thurmond and challenger Lance Christensen in the nonpartisan race for state superintendent of public instruction, as well as hundreds of local school board races across the state.

In a letter to school superintendents dated Friday, department officials wrote that they still hoped to release the test scores with other information.

“To the extent possible, our intent remains to also release finalized California School Dashboard data to allow for a more holistic review as soon as possible,” the letter states.

Vella’s announcement came after EdSource pushed back by reporting on the department’s delay in a letter from its attorney, who challenged its reasoning.

“… The CDE cannot identify any ‘public’ interest in non-disclosure that could justify its denial position, let alone an interest that ‘clearly outweighs’ the substantial public interest in access to this information,” the attorney, Duffy Carolan, wrote.

Since California first released Smarter Balanced scores in 2015, the Education Department has consistently released them separately and sooner than the other dashboard data. Dates ranged from the last week in August through the first week in October. The exception was the 2020-21 school year, when results were released in January 2022 with dashboard indicators.

Because of the pandemic, districts had a choice of giving local assessments or the Smarter Balanced tests; districts with enrollments totaling fewer than a quarter of the state’s students chose that option and the resulting data was “limited in both scope and use,” the department said in a news release at the time. No test was given in 2019-20 because of the pandemic.

EdSource has annually analyzed the data, so the public can look up a school’s scores and how it compares to other schools. The last full year of results is for the 2018-19 school year.

Also appearing on “AirTalk” on Tuesday morning, Pedro Noguera, dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, spoke of the crucial need for the data to be released to parents and caregivers as soon as possible, especially considering the pandemic’s effect on students.

“The timing on this is critical,” Noguera told the show’s host, Larry Mantle. “Districts have money they probably won’t have a year from now” that can be used to help students overcome what they may have missed because of the pandemic, he said.

He added that delaying the public release of the test results does not cast California in a favorable light, especially when other states are releasing data.

“For California to be an outlier doesn’t bode well for the state’s leaders,” he said.

EdSource investigative reporter Thomas Peele was also a panelist on the show. He described EdSource’s efforts to obtain the data from CDE, which is considered critically important for the public to know.

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  1. JudiAU 5 months ago5 months ago

    State of California: We are still waiting. This additional delay makes you look even more political.

  2. Beto 6 months ago6 months ago

    Time to vote for a new superintended of schools.

  3. Jeff 6 months ago6 months ago

    As a California teacher for many years, the single thing that prevented me from making the changes I knew needed to be made in my class was the idea that things were okay. As long as things are okay, there will be no “market” for change. We NEED a market for change so that IDEAS for change will, at least, get a hearing. Nice work, EdSource.

  4. Brenda Lebsack 6 months ago6 months ago

    This is so encouraging! I hope to see more advocacy like this for parents and tax payers who are funding public education. Thank you Thomas Peele and John Fensterwald! You are making a difference and Calif students will someday also thank you.

  5. John 6 months ago6 months ago

    EdSource Investigative Reporter Thomas Peele great job for your tenacity and approach to being as transparent as possible. Thank You.

  6. Todd Maddison 6 months ago6 months ago

    Thank you John, and EdSource!

  7. Sarah Lind 6 months ago6 months ago

    Thank you EdSource for fighting back!

  8. JudiAU 6 months ago6 months ago

    Thank you, EdSource.

  9. Michael Alan 6 months ago6 months ago

    Grateful that EdSource pushed back on this seemingly sad attempt to hide students’ Democrat-lockdown test scores before November elections.


    • Todd Maddison 6 months ago6 months ago

      Now we can only hope that parents are paying attention and voting accordingly!

  10. Eleanor 6 months ago6 months ago

    Maybe you shouldn’t have pushed the false narrative that the statewide data was being delayed until after the election to help Thurmond get reelected. Now you have egg on your face and deservedly so.


    • Ann 6 months ago6 months ago

      Why do you believe they were holding it?