School evaluation gets serious after long hiatus

School evaluation gets serious after long hiatus

(Calif.) For the first time in nearly five years, the state begins early next month identifying school districts in need of intervention as a result of failing to meet performance standards.

The Fall 2017 Dashboard, which is the latest version of the web-based tool used to communicate student and school performance to the public, is expected to be released as soon as Friday, Dec. 1.

The California Dashboard uses a color-coded system to describe how well schools and school districts are doing in relation to state standards for multiple performance measures including test scores, graduation rates and English-learner progress.

Although the state released the first Dashboard survey last spring, the fall version will be the first one to include evaluation of school districts for intervention purposes since the Academic Performance Index was largely discarded in 2013.

Since then, public schools in California have undergone a sea change not just in curriculum, but also in testing and accountability.

According to a September memo from the California Department of Education, the state will update the Dashboard each fall using data collected from the prior school year.

While local school boards and community stake-holders are encouraged to look closely at what the new data says about their schools’ areas of both strengths and weaknesses, a more formal review will also take place.

Initially, each county office of education is required to analyze district data and provide technical assistance when one or more student groups fails to meet performance criteria established this year by the California State Board of Education.

Because this is the first year that struggling schools will be singled out, the state board has called for a supportive program rather than sanctions or more aggressive interventions.

Expectations are that county superintendents have already reviewed the Dashboard data and are already engaged with providing support to eligible districts.

Under the new system, there are three levels of support:

  • At the first level, all local educational agencies are free to voluntarily utilize any of the existing services and resources that the state has developed, or those from other districts and county offices.
  • Districts that fall into the second level have been identified by county offices as needing assistance. Initially the support would come from the county office, but if problems persist, districts can also be referred on to the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence.

The CCEE was established by state law to provide “advice and assistance” to counties, LEAs and charter schools struggling to meet their local accountability goals as well as state standards. The CCEE is led by a five-member board who are appointed by the governor, legislative leaders and the state board president, and includes the state superintendent of schools.

  • At level three, the state schools chief is empowered to take more drastic steps.