After a few weeks’ delay, the 2017 online state standardized test scores are in, and most Vacaville-area school districts posted results that met or exceeded Solano County and state averages but largely remained the same as last year’s, reflecting the latest state averages, several administrators said.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Wednesday the results of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) tests in English and mathematics, noting, in a prepared statement, that they
“remained steady and retained the strong gains students made in 2016.”
The long-term targets states have put forward in the Every Student Succeeds Act have gotten a lot of attention, positive and negative. What’s a goal? Think about things like 75 percent of students scoring proficient in English/language arts in 13 years, or getting a certain share of kids to graduate on time in eight years.
But there’s something else you should know here: In several situations there may not be any consequences for missing these big targets.
Let’s focus on districts first. Under ESSA, if a district falls short of reaching a goal on any particular indicator, nothing has to happen to that district. By contrast, under the No Child Left Behind Act, ESSA’s predecessor, the adequate yearly progress targets applied to both schools and districts.
And what about schools? Nevada plans to use its goals two different ways in school accountability. They want to use them when identifying schools for interventions, and for awarding overall points in school ratings. But there’s nothing forcing states to incorporate goals directly in this sort of way into ratings and other policies impacting individual schools.
After much talk and testimony at a nine-hour meeting, the State Board of Education made modest changes last week to its draft of the state plan for complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Board members are confident the plan will soon be ready to pass along to the federal government for approval. Members of a coalition of two dozen civil rights and student advocacy organizations said the changes will do little to improve a plan that’s still vague and weak.
“After months of feedback and engagement, the current plan still doesn’t address the core issues that we know are absolutely essential to support high-need students,” Samantha Tran, senior director of education programming for the nonprofit Children Now, wrote in an email. “The state seems to be abdicating an essential civil rights role, and it’s disheartening.”
But judging from the mood recently at the annual conference of the Education Commission of the States, the states are anything but optimistic about the future, or about the new law.
The apprehension reminded me of the 1989 education summit convened by President George H.W. Bush. Back then the goal was to persuade governors to adopt a set of national education goals. All but a couple of states bought into the idea of “systemic change” with support from the federal government.
Four years ago, eight California schools districts that banded together in a nonprofit organization called CORE received federal permission under the No Child Left Behind Act to create their own school accountability system. Now the districts want the state’s permission to continue their experimentation with measurements of student growth, school climate and high school readiness. And CORE wants to let potentially dozens of other California districts participate in their work.
That may not happen, at least not anytime soon. In a letter last month, Karen Stapf Walters, the executive director of the State Board of Education, was skeptical of granting CORE’s request for special status as an “Innovation Zone” under the state’s accountability plan and called the idea “premature.” As a result, there is no plan to place CORE’s proposal on the agenda of the July meeting of the state board.
California’s State Board of Education has an opportunity at its meeting this week in Sacramento to leave behind one of the most unfair and problematic features of No Child Left Behind (NCLB): the way it calculates English learners’ progress for purposes of accountability.
In doing so, however, the state will still have some other dilemmas to resolve with respect to how it will focus on, understand, and support the nearly 1.4 million public students classified as English learners.
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.
After months of drafting, revising and debating how best to measure and improve schools, the State Board of Education this week will adopt key elements of a new and distinct school accountability system.
The series of votes on Thursday will meet the Legislature’s Oct. 1 deadline and will mark 2½ years since the state board suspended its simpler predecessor, the Academic Performance Index. The board expects to change components of the system in coming years.
The new system shifts from a one-dimensional school rating under the API and the federal No Child Left Behind Act, based on test scores, toward a broader picture of what constitutes a quality education. It combines measures of underlying conditions, such as teacher qualifications and student suspension rates, and academic outcomes, including gauges of college and career readiness and standardized test scores.
Some states assign a single number or letter grade to rate a school. Some parents prefer that too. But California education leaders are proposing a very different system with a brightly colored report card as a way of explaining the achievement of every school and district. At its meeting Wednesday morning, the State Board of Education will look at the latest draft and discuss how to proceed with it. (You can watch the webcast, starting at 8:30 am, here.)
The board is facing a September deadline to adopt a new school and district improvement and accountability system, which will take effect in 2017-18. In place of the now suspended Academic Performance Index, which assigned a three-digit number to a school based on standardized test scores, the state will take a more comprehensive look at school life and academic progress. The change will parallel the shift in Washington from the No Child Left Behind Act to broader measures required under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
State K-12 leaders busily trying to transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act are beginning to worry that the U.S. Department of Education is bent on trying to enforce the previous version of the law, the No Child Left Behind Act, Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers said in an interview Thursday.
The department, though, says that the two laws include many of the same requirements when it comes to test quality and equity. More on that below.
Minnich said states are trying to move toward testing and accountability systems that embrace the flexibilities of ESSA, which gives states much more leeway in both areas. They should be given some room to make those moves.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today that the federal government has granted California flexibility on rules regarding Supplemental Educational Services (SES) for the 2016–17 school year, the last year those rules would have been in effect.
SES funds are used to provide tutoring or other academic instruction outside the regular school day for academically deficient students at certain Title I schools, which have high numbers and high percentages of low-income students. Programs are often away from school grounds and require travel.
The decision, contained in a letter from the U.S. Department of Education last week, allows California school districts to have the flexibility to make their own decisions about how to spend an estimated $233 million in SES and transportation funds for public school choice. The estimate is based on the amount of funding allocated by California districts this year: $222 million for SES and $11 million for transportation.
Members of the State Board of Education who favor replacing the three-digit Academic Performance Index with a “dashboard” of measurements highlighting school performance can count on the backing of Gov. Jerry Brown.
The K-12 summary (pages 22-23) of Brown’s proposed 2016-17 state budget, released last week, stated, “The state system should include a concise set of performance measures, rather than a single index.” Brown said the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act creates the opportunity to design a “more accurate picture of school performance and progress” than in the past.
But whether the state should or even can switch, under the new federal law, from a single index like the API to a more complex school improvement system will be a potentially contentious issue this year. Both approaches to accountability, the dashboard with multiple measures – such as test scores, high school graduation rates and an indicator of student readiness for college and jobs – and a single index compiled from a mix of factors, have strong advocates.
The Every Student Succeeds Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law last month, includes important policies that recognize the needs and diversity of English learners in an effort to close the ongoing achievement gap between them and other students. The bill, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also crucially maintains accountability for improving academic achievement of English learners – a hallmark of the last reauthorization, known as the No Child Left Behind Act.
Given the new law’s overall thrust of reducing federal authority in education, however, ensuring that the needs of English learners are met will be complicated by the fact that education agencies in 50 states and the District of Columbia will be interpreting the new mandates and perhaps implementing them differently.
The law has many strengths with respect to the nation’s approximately 5 million English learners in K-12 classrooms. The most far-reaching change requires that states include English language proficiency in their accountability frameworks under Title I, the provision that governs accountability for all low-income students.
Its almost a decade overdue, but the U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote later today on a bill to replace the No Child Left Behind law.
Since NCLB was signed by President George W. Bush in early 2002, the federal government has played a major role in telling states how to run — and reform — their schools. But this new bill signals a sea change in the federal approach.
Annual tests in math and reading, the centerpiece of the old law, would remain in place. But the consequences of those test scores would no longer be dictated by the federal government. The new law, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, significantly shifts responsibility for improving schools back to the states.
After eight years and at least three serious attempts, Congress is finally moving forward on bipartisan, bicameral legislation to rewrite the almost-universally-despised No Child Left Behind Act, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The preliminary agreement—or “framework”—as the lead negotiators, Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., are calling it—is not the final word. Instead, its a jumping off point to set the stage for an official conference committee that begins Wednesday and could end this week.
So, despite all of the political pushback to testing, we all know that annual tests are likely to stick around if Congress reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in coming months. (That wasnt always a slam dunk, but now it basically is.)
But that doesnt mean that testing isnt—or hasnt been—an issue behind the scenes, as congressional aides and the top lawmakers on education issues—Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Reps. John Kline, R-Minn., and Bobby Scott, D-Va, along with the Obama administration—work through key ESEA issues.
If Congress reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and gives states way more control over their own accountability systems, what will they do with it?
Pretty much the same thing they have been doing for the past four years, says a report released Tuesday by the Council of Chief State School Officers. More specifically: States will continue crafting and implementing accountability systems that build on nine basic principles outlined by state education leaders way back in 2011.
The report comes as staffers to all four major federal lawmakers on education—Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash. as well as Reps. John Kline, R-Minn. and Bobby Scott, D-Va., are burning the midnight oil on a compromise bill to reauthorize ESEA that seeks to restore serious authority over K-12 policies to states. More on where all that work stands here.
How long do states with No Child Left Behind Act waivers have to get teacher-evaluation systems up and running? Maybe longer than you think.
It’s no secret that teacher evaluation has been the toughest area of NCLB waiver implementation, from the get-go. And its also no secret that the Obama administration has slowly shifted from taking a super hard line in this area to being much more flexible. (Or lax, depending on your viewpoint.)
And now the administration has quietly allowed more than a dozen waiver states until the 2016-17 school year—Obamas very last year in office—to fully put in place teacher-evaluation systems that take student test scores into account.
The State Board of Education isn’t giving up on the hope that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan might grant California at least a partial waiver from the No Child Left Behind law that he has given to 43 other states.
At its meeting on Thursday, the state board will consider asking the U.S. Department of Education to give school districts more authority to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in Title I funding for poor children on after-school or summer programs in math and English language arts. Districts currently must use that money – equal to 15 percent of their Title I funding for low-income students – on private tutoring companies over which districts have no control. Districts also must notify parents in low-performing schools of their right to transfer their children to better schools and must allocate 5 percent of Title I dollars to bus children to the new schools. Under the draft waiver proposal, districts could put unused transportation money toward district-run after-school and summer programs. The state is planning to seek a four-year waiver, starting this fall.