The state’s accountability dashboard for public K-12 public schools needs more detailed, specialized yardsticks to measure success at alternative schools, according to a report by the California Advisory Task Force on Alternative Schools.
California’s 1,030 alternative and continuation schools primarily serve students who’ve been expelled or are at risk of not graduating from traditional high schools. Because those students often lag significantly behind their peers academically, standardized test scores are not an accurate way to measure alternative schools’ success, the report concluded.
Better options include: measuring students’ academic progress over shorter periods of time, beginning when they enroll in the school; lowering the minimum size of student subgroups from 30 to 15, because alternative schools typically have smaller enrollments; and tracking graduation rates only among 12th-graders, rather than the four-year cohort, because very few students at alternative schools spend four years there.
The report also recommends that the state include college and career readiness — such an internship programs and job training — when evaluating alternative schools.
“This will help make the accountability system for alternative schools more visible, and create metrics that will allow us to distinguish between schools that are struggling and schools that are hitting it out of the park,” said Jorge Ruiz de Velasco, deputy director of the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities at Stanford University, which compiled the report in conjunction with the California Department of Education.