By Liz Guillen and John Affeldt
Public Advocates continues to play a key leadership role with the LCFF Equity Coalition as we help shape a new public school accountability system for California. The State Board of Education has been tasked by the Legislature with designing a new multiple measures system (think report card or dashboard versus a single summative grade) that fits with the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula and its equity focus.
The new system’s report card for districts will revolve around a set of “Evaluation Rubrics” to be adopted by the Board in September. The Coalition’s goals for the new system are that it leads to closing achievement gaps, promotes transparency and engagement of parents and students. With the looming deadline of October 1, 2016, it appears our hard work is paying off. At the July meeting of the Board, we spent a good amount of time thanking the Board and staff for design elements in the Evaluation Rubrics that we have been pushing, including:
- A summary display at the top with an Equity Report flagging subgroup underperformance, where present;
- Inclusion of all 8 state priorities in the rubrics/accountability system, even if the priorities for which there is not standardized data are weak (e.g., parental engagement, course access, school climate and standards implementation). This is critical for establishing a true multiple measures accountability system that has both quantitative and qualitative features;
- A commitment to form a working group to study how to do school surveys or other tools to make the non-standardized indicators for key priorities more robust in a year or so. Doing so will enable adoption of stronger standards for these other priority areas down the line;
- Requiring all districts to conduct annual school climate surveys;
- Adopting an approach for measuring parental engagement favored by our partners PICO California, Families in Schools and the Parent Outreach Network.
- Including a college and career ready outcome indicator where before there was only a graduation indicator. Including only the latter in the accountability system would have accepted the earning of a diploma as the system’s ultimate goal—even if students are not substantively prepared for college or work.
At the most recent State Board meeting on July 13th, the PA team joined parents, students and equity advocacy allies in defending the importance of honoring all priorities in the accountability system. This in the face of lobbyists for school districts and superintendents who have been pushing back on what they see as burdensome state mandates and not true local control. John Affeldt shepherded the Coalition’s letter to consensus and testified to the Board, where he was joined at the podium by PA’s summer legal interns. John urged the Board to set deadlines for themselves to strengthen some of these indicators. Liz Guillen spoke at a youth rally outside the Board meeting which was led by Californians for Justice youth leaders. Rally leaders asked Governor Brown to believe in them and the goal of closing the achievement gap. “We will believe in you!” Liz told the students to resounding cheers. (For more background, read recent articles here and here.)