Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Cortines requests delay in counting computer test results

by Vanessa Romo, LA School Report | http://bit.ly/136rJVm

LAUSD Superintendent Ray Cortines

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines

December 15, 2014 12:28 pm   ::  In a sudden reversal for LA Unified, Superintendent Ramon Cortines is asking the state to ignore the district’s Smarter Balanced testing results as a measure of academic growth or improvement next year.

In a letter [follows below] to the State Schools Chief, Tom Torlakson on Friday, Cortines wrote, “I have determined that it would be untimely to have the test results used for high stakes accountability purposes in spring 2015.”

He explained: “While LAUSD students in grades 3-8 and 11 participated in the Field Test last spring, we do not feel that our students have had adequate time practicing on the testing devices.”

“I would like to ask that any data or scores derived from [testing] not have a negative impact on state and/or federal funds that are allocated for the students in LAUSD,” he added.

The letter did not address what measure the district would or could use in the absence of computerized test results for purposes of tracking student and school levels of academic achievement and for qualifying for federal support dollars.

Torlakson, who was recently elected for a second term, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Cortines has repeatedly expressed concern over the ticking clock on the time students will have to become familiar with wireless devices before taking the math and English exam, aimed at testing the state’s new Common Core standards, in April.

“I do not believe that the assessments this spring will be an accurate demonstration of what students have learned nor what our teachers have taught this school year…We do not feel that students and schools should be penalized for the transition to new standards, new assessments, and new technology,” he wrote to Torlakson.

But even as the school board agreed to buy another 21,000 devices that it says will be in students’ hands by January — a combination of iPads and Chromebooks — the district has botched the delivery of the tablets it already owns.

Tens of thousands of iPads which were intended for one-to-one use, in addition to 40,000 iPads that were purchased specifically for testing, are four months delayed in reaching their destination. And Bernadette Lucas, director of the district’s Common Core Technology Project, said it will take another month before they hit the classrooms.

Only about 44,000 of the 90,000 devices are back in use, the rest remain in storage.

Lucas told LA School Report the delay for middle schools and high schools in getting them their one-to-one devices was caused by the “take-home issue.”

“Many of our schools made it clear to us that having the devices on campuses before they could take them home would present logistical challenges that would affect instructional time,” she said.

The question of allowing students to take home the expensive tablets has been hotly debated. Many parents are afraid to take on the responsibility of replacing the $700 tablets should they be damaged or lost while off campus. Lucas said the district needed time to sort it out.

“So while, the secondary principals were very clear that they consider the instructional devices very important to their instructional programs as they planned around it, they needed the take home piece to have that for the operational aspect of the roll out,” she said.

With regard to getting testing devices back in classrooms, Lucas explained the hold-up  was due “all of the updating we had to do.”

Board member Monica Ratliff, whose committee has analyzed various aspects of the district’s technology program, told LA School Report she supports Cortines’ request of Torlakson, not to count this year’s results, which were designed to serve as a baseline for judging academic growth the following year.

“The Board of Education and educators across LAUSD should join Superintendent Cortines in advocating for the delay of [Smarter Balanced] results for high stakes accountability purposes,” she said.

It is possible for districts to give a pencil and paper version of the test, but Cortines’s letter makes no mention whether the district is considering that option. District officials are divided on whether it’s too late to substitute the computerized version of the test.

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LAUSD superintendent seeks state testing relief

Annie Gilbertson, KPCC | Pass/Fail | http://bit.ly/1zu12Wa

94162 full

Dozens of schools across LAUSD have iPads, but Superintendent Ramon Cortines said students need more practice before high-stakes testing in the spring. Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

December 15, 06:35 PM  ::  Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines is asking state officials to hold off on using test scores to measure improvement for the second year in a row.

"We do not feel that our students have had adequate time practicing on the testing devices," Cortines said in a letter Friday to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

Students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 are scheduled to take the tests in the spring on newly issued tablets and laptops.

Under Cortines' request, first reported by LA School Report, [<- column left]scores would still be delivered to students, parents and schools, but would not be counted toward schools' Academic Performance Index, the measure by which California schools' determine improvement on tests.

Keric Ashley, an administrator at the California Department of Education, said the state board has the authority to set aside API scores and plans to take up the issue at its January meeting.

"Regardless of this public discussion of the API, schools and parents will receive scores and the Superintendent strongly urges all schools to continue their preparation for the computer-adaptive assessments coming in the spring," Ashley said in an email.

Cortines' request follows the school board's approval last week of $22 million in testing technology, bringing the district's inventory of devices to 120,000 iPads and Chromebooks.

About 45,000 of those devices have been distributed to schools, and students were preparing to take their tests on the equipment.

But Cortines wrote in his letter: "I do not believe that the assessments this spring will be an accurate demonstration of what students have learned nor what our teachers have taught this year."

California schools switched last year to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, a digital test aligned with new Common Core learning standards.

Schools are required to test students on math and English language arts and report their performance to the state. According to the federal No Child Left Behind law, those states that do not comply risk losing billions in federal funding.

The law also requires schools to bring up all students to proficiency levels in reading and math. If they fall short of yearly targets, they can face sanctions.

Last year, Torlakson and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan faced off over whether California could opt out of reporting results during the transition to the new tests.

“A request from California to not measure the achievement of millions of students this year is not something we could approve in good conscience," Duncan warned California officials September 2013.

The state did not report test data last year.

In his letter, Cortines said lack of testing results from 2013 is heightening concerns this year.

"We have no way of gauging how our students did and whether or not they struggled with the content, test, technology or a combination of all three," he said.

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At this time, the only paper and pencil versions requested were for students requiring braille. All other students will be taking the online administration.

LA Unified conducted a dry-run of the tests last spring, but the results were not made public. However, many schools reported technical difficulties; students were unable to log onto the testing site, connections to the internet were spotty, and many students were booted out of the system, unable to complete the test.

But, Cynthia Lim, executive director of the department that oversees the deployment of devices for the Smarter Balanced test and the infrastructure required to administer it, said last month that the district has learned “many useful lessons” from last year’s experience and it will be prepared come spring.

Cortines’ request would appear to betray Lim’s confidence

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2centsI don’t know how California Superintendent of Public Instruction Torlakson and/or the State Board of Ed gives LAUSD the relief requested without extending it to all the other districts in the state.  I have heard Deputy Superintendent Ruth Perez say that LAUSD is far behind other districts in preparing for the Smarter Balanced Assessments. But again: How does California give LAUSD a break …and not every other school district?

If LAUSD had been hit by a natural disaster – say an earthquake or a named superstorm  - I’d get it.  Certainly Deasy was a disaster, albeit an unnatural one, but the LAUSD Board of Ed hired him and kept him on long after the disastrousness became apparent.  Tom Torlakson doesn’t need to be reminded that a Superior Court Judge in Alameda County made him come to LA to suss out the MiSiS Crisis at Jefferson High School, A misadventure known to history as Deasy’s Last Straw.

Thinking in print: If Deasy’s legacy was built upon the iPad Hypothesis  (“1:1 Computing is the Civil Right that Solves Poverty!”) ,his second biggest triumph was the CORE CALFORNIA WAIVER FROM NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND – where Dr. D and a group of Close Personal Friend Superintendents finagled negotiated  their own personal Get Out of NCLB Jail Free Card with Arne Duncan and the federal Dept of Ed by creating their own extragovernmental  entity  (“The California Office to Reform Education”) …without getting buy-in from the SPI, the State Board of Ed, the governor or the lege … or the school boards in their districts.

Moreover, the promise made by CORE CA was that they would be held extraordinarily accountable in the State Tests. Except that California didn’t test last year. (Which made Arne Duncan angry ...Remember? …he stamped his foot! and threatened to keep all the Title I money?)

  • Now the proposal is that the LAUSD tests won’t count next year.
  • Where are the other CORE CA districts on this?    Clovis, Fresno, Garden Grove, Long Beach, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Sanger and Santa Ana Unified.  Are those supes writing letters?

Now of course, SPI Torlakson has no love for CORE CA.  But I suspect he and the whole Sacramento crew – up-to-and-including the teacher’s unions -  have even less love for Arne and the US Dept of Ed …which refused to give the State of California a NCLB waiver …but gave one to Deasy+Co.

So it’s politics-as-unusual …as usual!

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