Gov’s pen restructures school accountability system

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Wednesday that will remake the state's accountability system for public schools by reducing the role of standardized testing and incorporate new college- and career-readiness measurements.

The governor also gave a big boost to online learning programs with his signature on legislation that authorizes school districts to claim revenue limit attendance for high school students enrolled in online courses, where the teacher is also participating in real-time.

But Brown rejected another bill that would have encouraged schools to use evidence-based alternative strategies to reduce high suspension rates.

In what will prove a major overhaul of the state's system for evaluating the performance of schools, SB 1458 by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg provides that achievement test results cannot constitute more than 60 percent of the value of the Academic Performance Index for high schools and at least 60 percent of the value of the API for primary and middle schools. Both changes would become effective for the 2014-15 school year.

For years, teaching to the test' has become more than a worn cliché because 100 percent of the API relied on bubble tests scores in limited subject areas," said Steinberg in a statement.

"But life is not a bubble test and that system has failed our kids," he said. "By balancing testing with factors like graduation rates, and measuring how prepared our students are for entering college and the workforce, SB 1458 will spur the system into delivering higher quality education combining real-world relevance and academic rigor."

Brown vetoed similar legislation last year from Steinberg and state schools chief Tom Torlakson that sought some of the same changes in the school accountability system. The prior bill attempted to replace the entire API with a different evaluation model - which drew Brown's criticism for relying on the "same quantitative and standardized paradigm at the heart of the current system."

Meanwhile, AB 644 by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys, won Brown's support.

The bill will expand the availability of online classes in high school by eliminating financial obstacles faced by school districts - something Blumenfield cheered.

"By signing this bill, the governor has unleashed our know how to provide a better education for our kids who grow up using more technology than ever," he said in a statement. "We can finally work towards becoming a leader in online education."

He noted that currently online courses are funded as independent study, which creates a big financial disincentive to schools wishing to offer the courses. Starting in the 2014-15, school districts and county offices of education will be able to claim for funding purposes the attendance of students enrolled in online courses.

Rejected by Brown, however, was SB 1235 - also by Steinberg - one of a number of bills this session aimed at revising suspension and expulsion policies.

Brown in his veto message said the bill would have required the state schools chief to keep a list of schools with high suspension rates and invite the districts to attend meetings to discuss the problem. The governor said he preferred to leave the issue to local school boards and their communities.

The governor also took action on a number of other education bills Wednesday. Among those he signed:

AB 1967 by Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, which requires the Instructional Quality Commission and the State Board of Education to ensure that the next health and science frameworks adoption the subject of organ and tissue donation.

AB 2491 by Assemblyman Blumenfield, which requires the State Board of Education, upon the next revision of the Gifted and Talented Education program criteria, to adopt a standard ensuring that school districts participating in GATE adopt student identification procedures in order to provide economically disadvantaged pupils and pupils of varying cultural backgrounds full participation in the program.

SB 121 by Sen. Carol Liu, D-Pasadena, which requires a written statement be provided to a Local Educational Agency by a parent, guardian or educational rights holder if he or she makes a determination that it is in the best interest of a foster pupil to be placed in an educational program other than a program operated by the LEA.

SB 298 by Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, which extends the authorization for the Los Angeles County Board of Education to charter the Soledad Enrichment Action Charter School, for at-risk students, until June 30, 2018.

SB 754 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, which requires a school district, as a condition of receipt of economic impact aid funds (for English learners and economically-disadvantaged students), to post in an easily accessible location on its Internet Web site, information regarding the funding and expenditures of such aid.

SB 1290 by Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, which requires the authority that granted a charter school to consider gains in pupil academic achievement for all groups of students served by the charter school as the most important factor in determining whether to grant a charter renewal or whether to revoke a charter. Also requires a charter school to achieve its Academic Performance Index (API) growth target for schoolwide and numerically significant pupil subgroups for renewal.

SB 1568 by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, which requires a local educational agency to allow a former foster youth to remain enrolled in his or her school of origin through graduation if the jurisdiction of the court is terminated while the youth is in high school, and exempts a school district from having to provide transportation to a former foster youth with an individual education program unless the youth's IEP team specifies that transportation is a necessary related service.

AB 2307 by Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, D-Marina Del Rey, requires that a classified school employee, who is placed on a reemployment list and is subsequently reemployed in a new position, retains the right to be returned to the reemployment list for the remainder of the 39-month period in the event he/she fails to complete the probationary period in the new position.

AB 2435 by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, D-Baldwin Park, establishes rules governing the indirect rate that local education agencies (LEAs) may charge when implementing federal or state grant programs.

Brown vetoed the following bills:

SB 1235 by Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, which would have encouraged schools to use evidence-based strategies to reduce their suspension rates if more than 25 percent of the student population is subject to the punitive, zero-tolerance measures. The bill also would have required the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the California Department of Education to provide training and technical assistance to districts on implementation of evidence-based school-wide strategies.

AB 1811 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, which would have phased in a new method for computing the funding entitlement for a high school that is converted into a charter to account for an existing differential.

AB 1919 by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, which would have required the California Department of Education (CDE) to provide a school district with individual pupil test score data of pupils who attend a charter school for which the school district is the chartering authority.

SB 885 by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, which would have authorized the California Department of Education, the University of California, the California State University, the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the State Board of Education, the Employment Development Department and the California School Information Services to enter into a joint powers agreement to facilitate the implementation of a comprehensive longitudinal P-20 statewide data system for California, as well as the transfer of educational and workforce data.

SB 1497 by Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, which would have prohibited a student who has dropped out of school, re-enrolled and dropped out again from being counted more than once when computing dropout rates for the annual Report on Dropouts in California and when compiling data for the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System.

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