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California at bottom in nationwide ranking of accountability systems; state board president disagrees

By in Press Enterprise on November 17, 2017

By EdSource

By John Fensterwald, EdSource

Another prominent education research and advocacy organization that disapproves of California’s approach to school accountability has ranked California’s new system at the bottom nationwide in a report released this week.

The low score by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute reflects a core disagreement over how best to identify and work with schools needing help. California education leaders are unapologetic about the route they’ve chosen, and they say the Fordham analysis contains a key error.

Like Bellwether Education Partners, which harshly criticized the state’s approach in an August analysis, Washington, D.C.- and Ohio-based Fordham gives high grades to states that will rank schools with an A-F letter grade or a similar method that’s understandable at a glance. States will use rankings to select the lowest-performing schools, as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

California’s color-coded school dashboard does not give a summary school ranking. Each measure of performance, whether test scores, graduation rates or student suspension rates, gets a separate color rating. Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Board of Education say that this approach focuses attention on specific areas that need work. While this is more complex — and, some critics say, confusing — advocates say it is more helpful in diagnosing problems.

Fordham also rated California poorly for not giving more weight to how much students’ test results improve year over year. And it criticized its current methodology to measure schools’ growth in scores.

In a statement, State Board of Education President Michael Kirst said Fordham’s ranking judged California’s system narrowly and failed to appreciate “the totality of California’s efforts to improve outcomes for all students.”

“This report arbitrarily picks out only 3 components of a large multi-component plan to rate states,” Kirst wrote in an email. “The California School Dashboard provides communities with unprecedented access to meaningful information about […]    

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