Expanded rating system helps California parents understand how schools are doing | EdSource

California is the first state in the nation to get enhanced school ratings from GreatSchools, an Oakland-based nonprofit.

The improved ratings now include course access, student progress and equity — which are intended to help parents choose schools, advocate to improve them and support their children’s education.

Those measures are in addition to test scores and other data that was previously included in school profiles on the group’s website.

“We believe schools must serve the needs of every child, in every community, and we know that parents play an enormous role in ensuring this happens,” said Matthew Nelson, president of GreatSchools. “We hope our new rating system and school profiles will further enable parents to be strong advocates for their children — and all children in their communities — to help all kids have a shot at success.”

Source: Expanded rating system helps California parents understand how schools are doing | EdSource

Revised meal payment policy on Dixon USD agenda – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

An explanation about a delayed release for the latest state standardized test scores and a revised food services meal payment policy are on the agenda when Dixon Unified leaders meet tonight in Dixon.

Mike Walbridge, assistant superintendent for educational services, will explain the reason for the delay, which the state Department of Education has chalked up to an unspecified “data problem.” The 2017 California Assessment of Student Proficiency and Progress, or CAASPP, measures student skills in English and math for students in grades three through eight and 11th grades.

The five-member governing board will consider the new meal payment policy, as presented by Melissa Mercado, the chief business official.

In brief, the policy will require cafeteria workers and district staff to increase their efforts to inform parents or guardians of their student’s delinquent meal account. Once a limit of $50 is reached, the student will no longer be able to charge meals, and, after all efforts to collect the debts are made, district officials may prohibit seniors from participating in senior activities, including graduation, or possibly delay the sending of a student’s report card.

Source: Revised meal payment policy on Dixon Unified School District agenda

California delays release of Smarter Balanced scores | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

The California Department of Education has postponed the release of statewide results of the Smarter Balanced assessments in math and reading, which were to be published on Tuesday.

The department announced the delay Friday, citing a “recently identified data issue.” It offered no more details and did not set a new date for the release. The department had said the results would be released in September, then earlier this month pushed the date up to Aug. 29. Last year, the department released the scores on Aug. 24. In 2015, the first year of the full test, scores were released on Sept. 9.

School districts have had access to their own results for several weeks. And many parents already have received a report on their children’s individual scores, with a comparison with last year’s results.

Source: California delays release of Smarter Balanced scores | EdSource

ESSA’s New High School Testing Flexibility: What’s the Catch? – Education Week

By Alyson Klein

When the Every Student Succeeds Act passed, one of the things that educators were most excited about was the chance to cut down on the number of tests kids have to take, Specifically, the law allows some districts to offer a nationally recognized college-entrance exam instead of the state test for accountability.

But that flexibility could be more complicated than it appears on paper.

Here’s a case in point: Oklahoma, which hasn’t finalized its ESSA application yet, has already gotten pushback from the feds for the way that it had planned to implement the locally selected high school test option in a draft ESSA plan posted on the state department’s website. In that plan, Oklahoma sought to offer its districts a choice of two nationally recognized tests, the ACT or the SAT. Importantly, the state’s draft plan didn’t endorse one test over the other—both were considered equally okay.

Source: ESSA’s New High School Testing Flexibility: What’s the Catch? – Politics K-12 – Education Week

Fairfield-Suisun leaders to consider budget – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Like so many California school districts in summertime, with their 2017-18 LCAPs and budgets sent to county offices of education, Fairfield-Suisun Unified has posted a relatively light agenda for its Thursday meeting in Fairfield.

Trustees will hear several presentations at the outset, including a report, delivered by students, about the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) camp at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Under the consent calendar, items typically approved in one collective vote, governing board members will OK a $1.13 million contract with the state Department of Education for child development services.

Source: Fairfield-Suisun leaders to consider budget

Vacaville Unified school board trustees put final touches on 2017-18 budget – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Vacaville Unified leaders late last week put finishing touches on the final 2017-18 school district budget some Local Control Accountability Plans, which will be approved, perhaps with some minor changes, at the governing board’s June 29 meeting.

In California, annual school district budgets and their accompanying LCAPs, a key part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula, must be submitted to respective county offices of education on or before June 30.

Although they detail spending for all student programs, LCAPs typically lay out in detail funding for programs that help English learners, foster youth and low-income students in efforts to close the “achievement gap,” the difference in standardized test scores between whites and ethnic minorities.

Source: Vacaville Unified school board trustees put final touches on 2017-18 budget

Torlakson Announces Peak of Annual CAASPP Testing – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced that nearly 500,000 California students took California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests on Tuesday May 9, the highest number of students testing simultaneously during the 2017 spring testing season.

“We are in the third year of administering these state-of-the-art assessments, and the capacity of our system and our schools to efficiently administer these tests increases every year,” Torlakson said. “Our students and families are the ultimate winners here. The information from these tests will help our schools refine their teaching, improve learning, and better prepare our students for success.”

The CAASPP assessments in English language arts/literacy and mathematics are given each spring to students in grades three through eight and grade eleven. More than two-thirds of the 3.3 million eligible California students have begun testing. As of Wednesday, May 10, more than 2.7 million students statewide have started a summative assessment in English language arts/literacy or mathematics. Participation peaked on May 9 with 495,463 students testing at one time.

Source: Torlakson Announces Peak of Annual CAASPP Testing – Year 2017 (CA Dept of Education)

Teacher complaints lead to improvements in state tests | EdSource

By Theresa Harrington

Changes are underway to fix flaws in tests designed to help teachers pinpoint student weaknesses before they take Common Core–aligned assessments each spring.

The tests, known as “interim assessments,” are similar to the end-of-the year Smarter Balanced assessments that are used to assess student achievement and progress, as well as that of their schools and districts, in math and English language arts. More than 3 million California students take the Smarter Balanced assessments each year.

Many teachers have given the optional interim tests to their students during the school year to gauge how they are doing, hoping to adjust what or how they teach in advance of the final assessments that are used to fulfill state and federal accountability requirements.

Source: Teacher complaints lead to improvements in state tests | EdSource

Vacaville Unified official: New school accountability system gets mixed marks – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

The newly released state public school and district accountability system, which uses multiple measures of school progress and performance, gets a mixed reaction from Vacaville Unified’s chief academic officer.

“Overall, I like the concept and the idea of looking at multiple sources of data; I think that’s really good,” Mark Frazier said of the California School Dashboard, launched last month by the state Department of Education.

“But one of the things that is disappointing is, that some of the data they’re using (suspension rate, English learner progress and graduation rate) is not as up-to-date as it could be,” he added. “That data is so old it’s hard to interpret.”

Source: Vacaville Unified official: New school accountability system gets mixed marks

California will administer new pilot science test despite U.S. Department of Education ruling | EdSource

By Pat Maio

In less than two months, California will begin giving public school students a pilot version of an online test based on new science standards – one of the first states to do so in the United States.

About 17 states are in various stages of rolling out assessments based on the new Next Generation Science Standards, which emerged after educational leaders nationwide met in 2010 and pushed for rewriting a science curriculum that had not been changed since the late 1990s. Yet none of those states have progressed as far as California in developing a pilot version based on the standards that California will administer to students in the 5th, 8th and 10th grade.

However, when some districts begin administering the online pilot tests on March 20, California will effectively be in violation of a ruling issued by the U.S. Department of Education two days before President Barack Obama left office. That ruling rejected the state’s request to waive having to administer the outdated paper and pencil California Standards Tests in science, which are based on the old standards introduced in 1998.

Source: California will administer new pilot science test despite U.S. Department of Education ruling | EdSource

U.S. Education Department rejects California’s science testing plans | EdSource

By Pat Maio

With two days remaining before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, the U.S. Department of Education has rejected California’s request to begin administering online tests this spring based on new science standards, in lieu of a test based on standards established in 1998.

The state’s final administrative appeal following a six-months-long battle over science testing in California was denied Wednesday in a Jan. 18 letter sent by Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr., to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst.

Whalen wrote that she made her ruling based on concerns about the lack of transparency of science testing data during California’s transition from online pilot testing to fully operational tests set for the 2018-19 school year.

Source: U.S. Education Department rejects California’s science testing plans | EdSource

State board chooses new way of measuring school progress on tests | EdSource

By John Fensterwald

After hours of discussion, the State Board of Education on Wednesday settled two much debated issues that will enable state officials to move ahead this year with the state’s new school accountability system.

One decision creates a different way to measure schools’ and student groups’ progress on standardized tests in math and English. The other, more contentious issue will determine which schools and districts will require intervention or technical help because their English learners did poorly on the math and English language arts tests.

In September, the board approved a framework for the new improvement and accountability system that will give a broader view of schools’ and districts’ performance through measures that will include students’ readiness for college and careers, school climate, parent engagement and academic performance. The board set a timeline for refining the metrics over the next year.

Source: State board chooses new way of measuring school progress on tests | EdSource

New school start times, safety course for high schoolers on Vacaville Unified agenda – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Principal Ed Santopadre’s twice-yearly report about Vacaville High, new school start times and necessary transportation changes, a new high school course about public service and safety, and a large Measure A contract are on the agenda when Vacaville Unified trustees meet tonight in Vacaville.

The longtime leader at the West Monte Vista Avenue campus, Santopadre, in a slide presentation, will review and update the seven-member governing board on myriad aspects of the school, from the mission and Advance Placement test results to standardized test results and graduation/dropout rates to school climate and multimillion-dollar Measure A projects.

More than likely, Chief Academic Officer Mark Frazier will present information about new school start times and necessary transportation changes that will occur in the fall.

Secondary schools, that is, high schools and middle schools, will start no earlier than 8:20 a.m., with elementary school start times beginning no earlier than 8 a.m.

 

Source: New school start times, safety course for high schoolers on Vacaville Unified agenda

Federal government insists again that California administer old science tests | EdSource

By Louis Freedberg

The U.S. Department of Education has once again rejected California’s bid to begin phasing in tests this spring based on new science standards, in lieu of current tests based on standards in place since 1998.

In a letter sent Tuesday to state education leaders, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr., said that California would have to continue to administer the old tests. She said the pilot tests based on the Next Generation Science Standards adopted by California in 2013 would not “measure the full depth and breadth of the state’s academic content in science.”

It is not clear what will happen after Jan. 20 when President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated, and whether his administration will also insist that California administer the old tests.

Source: Federal government insists again that California administer old science tests | EdSource

Duel between California and Obama administration over education continues | EdSource

by Louis Freedberg

The long-running battle between California and the federal government over the direction of state education policy continues, despite passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal education law that delegates far more decision-making powers to local school districts than its much-maligned predecessor, the No Child Left Behind law.

In an unexpected response two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education rejected California’s application for a federal waiver from having to administer the California Standards Tests in science, a multiple choice test based on outdated science standards adopted nearly two decades ago.

What makes the latest run-in with the administration so head-scratching is that it comes in the waning months of the Obama administration — over a relatively small piece of a student’s standardized testing regimen, at least compared to the Smarter Balanced math and English tests aligned with the Common Core standards.

Under the No Child Left Behind law, as well as the Every Student Succeeds Act replacing it, states are required to administer a science test each year to 5th- and 8th-graders, and once to high school students, and to report the scores on those tests.

Source: Duel between California and Obama administration over education continues | EdSource

Dixon Unified agenda: Updates on state test scores, Measure Q – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Dixon Unified leaders, when they meet tonight, will hear a presentation on state standardized test scores, an update on Measure Q on the November ballot, and the Dixon High Farm.

The assistant superintendent of educational services, Mike Walbridge will tell the five-member governing board that, of the 1,700 out of 3,500 students tested last spring in grades three to eight and 11, 32 percent met or exceeded state standards in math and 41 percent did so in English.

Dixon’s scores on the 2016 California Assessment of Student Proficiency and Progress (CAASPP) roughly matched those of Solano County as a whole but fell well below the state averages.

Source: Dixon Unified agenda: Updates on state test scores, Measure Q

State gets $11M in fed grants to help poor kids take AP tests – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

In an effort to boost college and career prospects for California’s poor children, the U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday announced it has awarded the Golden State more than $11 million in grants so low-income students can take Advanced Placement tests.

Federal education officials, pointing out the poor have been a historically underserved group, noted that California is one of 41 states and Washington, D.C., to receive a total of $28.4 million to help pay for the taking of AP tests by students from low-income families.

States receiving the next highest grant amounts were Texas ($3.5 million), New York ($2.7 million) and Illinois ($1.8 million).

Mark Frazier, the chief academic officer for Vacaville Unified, said the announcement did not come as a surprise, since the district has applied to set aside some money so poor students can take the AP tests if they wish.

 

Source: State gets $11M in fed grants to help poor kids take AP tests

Vacaville USD leaders to hear test score results, nutrition program update – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Vacaville Unified leaders, when they meet Thursday night, will hear a report on the most recent state standardized test scores, hear an update on the school district’s student nutrition program, and likely approve support for Proposition 51 on the November ballot.

Mark Frazier, chief academic officer, and Kim Forrest, director of instruction, curriculum and assessment, will note results of the 2015-16 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP.

Released to the public Aug. 24, the tests scores indicated that 37 percent of those taking the all-computerized tests last spring — some 6,200 students in grades three to eight and 11 — met or exceeded state standards in mathematics, an increase of 1 percent over last year.

Source: Vacaville Unified School District leaders to hear test score results, nutrition program update

Area students show progress on state tests – The Reporter

By Richard Bammer

Thousands of Vacaville-area public school students, like their counterparts statewide, showed across-the-board progress in the second year of new state standardized tests, the California Department of Education reported Wednesday morning.

State schools chief Tom Torlakson made the state results known in a 9 a.m. public announcement while visiting a Los Angeles elementary school and in the afternoon at San Leandro High School in the East Bay.

Vacaville Unified

In Vacaville Unified, 37 percent of those taking the all-computerized tests last spring, some 6,200 students grades three to eight and 11, met or exceeded state standards in mathematics, an increase of 1 percent over last year, said Mark Frazier, the district’s chief academic officer.

Source: Area students show progress on state tests

Statewide Student Test Results Released – Year 2016 (CA Dept of Education)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today that California students made significant progress in the second year of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) online tests, with the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards increasing at every grade and in every student group.

Nearly half the students tested met or exceeded standards in English language arts, and nearly four in ten met or exceeded standards in mathematics (see Table 1). These online tests, based on California’s challenging academic standards, ask students to write clearly, think critically, and solve complex problems, just as they will need to do in college and on the job.

“The higher test scores show that the dedication, hard work, and patience of California’s teachers, parents, school employees, and administrators are paying off. Together we are making progress towards upgrading our education system to prepare all students for careers and college in the 21st century,” Torlakson said.

Source: Statewide Student Test Results Released – Year 2016 (CA Dept of Education)