Sunday, May 12, 2013


By Kimberly Beltran, SI&A Cabinet Report |

Thursday, May 09, 2013  ::  California’s State Board of Education raised some major red flags Wednesday over changes being considered to the state’s K-12 school accountability system, leaving in question the next steps for updating the system.

Mike Kirst, board president, even questioned whether a revised API could continue to serve as a viable measuring tool.

“In baseball, you have a batting average, you have a runs-batted-in average, you have an on-base percentage and other measures and you don’t put them all together and say this is the performance index of the hitter – they’re separate things,” Kirst said. “I think we get in trouble when we start mixing apples and oranges and bananas, throw them into a blender and get a single number.”

Kirst’s comments came during an update from California Department of Education staff on its progress to add student growth indicators, other than test scores, to the Academic Performance Index – as required under legislation passed last year. CDE staff is guiding the work in conjunction with a panel of education experts convened to recommend to the state board what those changes should be.

But the impacts on the API from the K-12 school system’s simultaneous switch to new common core standards and testing system are difficult to predict and so far have raised more questions than answers.

The law requiring changes to the API does not specify the formula nor specific criteria that should be used to evaluate how well schools are preparing students for their futures; it simply states that the current formula’s reliance on only standardized test scores be reduced to no more than 60 percent and that graduation rates and other indicators of college and career readiness compile 40 percent.

The advisory committee, led by CDE, has grappled with the complicated issues of determining what data-driven indicators exist – such as graduation rates, attendance rates and dropout rates – and how those can be factored into the system. An even more difficult challenge has been coming up with reliable measures of a student’s readiness to enter the workforce upon graduation.

On Wednesday, several board members, including Kirst, worried about maintaining the credibility of the API throughout the transition process.

“If we don’t know exactly what all we’re going to put in – like if we were going to put in the graduation rate or the dropout rate just because there’s a general consensus it’s now valid – and we don’t know how much weight to give it now and we could change that weight in couple years when we have more indicators – the changing of the weights, the changing of the indicators, the adding them in one at a time, I’m very concerned that the API could lose credibility in the field,” said SBE member Trish Williams, who also serves as a board liaison to the API advisory committee.

CDE staff was seeking an indication of whether the state board preferred to try to make several changes all at once to the API to try to meet the proposed date of 2015 for initiation of the new testing system, or to add indicators one by one over a slightly longer period of time.

The answer was to slow down and take the time to do it thoughtfully so that any future accountability system is based on valid indicators that provide an accurate school growth picture.

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