Career readiness still missing from performance system

Career readiness still missing from performance system

(Calif.) The state’s landmark school accountability system is poised to move forward without a key element that would make it all the more groundbreaking–indicators of when a student is career ready.

After more than four years of debate and discussion, the California State Board of Education is likely to finalize the new performance matrix next week without adding any new measures for evaluating the preparation of students headed into the job market instead of college after high school.

In July, the board kicked back to staff a proposed method of measuring college and career readiness because it relied too heavily on academic readings and not enough on the career side of the equation.

In a memo to the board from the California Department of Education, staff said after further consideration they are unable to provide any more than was presented two months ago and instead suggested that the state back away at this time from trying to identify when a student is “well prepared” for the work force.

“Due to the absence of robust career data, valid and reliable career criteria for the ‘Well Prepared’ performance level could not be determined,” the CDE said. “Proceeding with a ‘Well Prepared’ category at this time would result in an over-emphasis on the college measures.  The CDE recommends establishing criteria only for three levels within the CCI, with the criteria for the ‘Well Prepared’ performance level to be developed when additional data on career readiness becomes available.”

The withdrawal–which might not be temporary–doesn’t come as a surprise. California policy experts and education officials have been working on the issue since 2012, when legislation was first adopted that reduced the outsized role of standardized test scores in measuring school and student performance.

Just a year later, the governor’s Local Control Funding Formula became law, and with it, a long list of performance benchmarks–including school climate and parent engagement–that schools were required to report in the Local Accountability Plans.

Next week, the state board is expected to finalize the evaluation rubrics that will be used by the public and state regulations to gauge whether LEAs have followed through with the goals established in the LCAP or if intervention might be needed.

The new accountability system is also a fundamental component of the federally-required state plan called for under the Every Student Succeeds Act–a document that would be used by the U.S. Department of Education for state accountability purposes.

Although there is no requirement in either state or federal law that California include in its accountability program a well-defined measure for career readiness, it is a goal long sought by the Brown administration as well as policy makers in many states.

About 40 percent of the nation’s high school seniors end up in the work force–many ill-prepared or untrained for good-paying jobs.

The proposed rubrics system will judge schools on five performance indicators that schools will be judged: student test scores, progress of English learners toward English language proficiency, high school graduation rates, scoring on statewide assessments for grades 3 and 8 in math and English, and suspension rates by grade span. 

The college and career readiness tool proposed in July had four sections that define a student’s status as either well prepared, prepared, approaching prepared and not yet prepared. The revised tool would simply eliminate the “well prepared” category for students not expected to attend college.

Thus, evaluators are asked to decide if a student meets at least one of the performance measures in each section. For instance, students who are considered to be approaching prepared would need to:

  • Complete an A-G course with a grade of C or better;
  • Complete one or more non-articulated career technical education pathway course’
  • Qualify as CTE concentrator (complete two courses in the same pathway);
  • Score “conditionally ready” in both English language arts and math;
  • Score “ready” and “not ready on the Early Assessment Program;
  • Complete one year of dual enrollment;
  • Score 3 or higher on one Advance Placement exam; or
  • Score 4 or higher on at least two International Baccalaureate exams more