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California education should be better than last

California education should be better than last
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I love living in California. Much of the rest of the U.S. envies our lifestyle and weather — especially after the recent nor’easters that have piled snow on the East Coast. Yet, while much about California is terrific, our education system for our children is wanting and needs to be fixed.

Thankfully not all of the education news is bad. In fact, California has established college-ready standards and high-quality and aligned assessments. In addition, our state has adopted rigorous academic goals. Yet more needs to happen.

For example, let’s take a close look at the education dashboard accountability system. I know that is a mouthful, which in itself should tell you this dashboard is complicated and incomplete. The dashboard has a color-coded, 25-square performance grid for each indicator that will create a number of arbitrary cut points between performance levels. I hold a master’s in educational psychology, and I have a hard time understanding this system. How much harder would it be for parents and students to understand?

Educational accountability is paramount because it tells us if we are meeting our academic goals. How will we be able to measure our progress and make corrections if the reporting system is not understandable? Clarity is important not only for the education professionals who create the system but also for parents and students who use it and make decisions at home based on it.

As a Hispanic who works with at-risk youth, I know the ramifications of an intelligible reporting system can be especially damaging for minorities. California has a high percentage of students with parents who are English learners. Many parents will need an interpreter to understand a child’s grades. Such complexity puts an additional burden to the challenges they already face due to language difference.

It’s not just my opinion that this system is complicated — it’s also the conclusion of education experts. An independent and bipartisan peer review of all state ESSA plans found that California’s federal feedback was extensive, exceeding what most other states received. California got especially low marks on the lack of detail of its accountability system.

In fact, the report ranked California’s accountability plan at the bottom, and gave it the lowest scores in two categories out of nine, calling the state’s new dashboard that tracks school performance complicated and incomplete. Parents want to know how their kids’ schools are performing, and how their students are performing, but if the overall system is confusing, it’s hard to envision how parents make sense of the results of their schools and what it means for their students.

Federal law mandates states explain how they will track student achievement, identify its lowest-performing schools and provide direct accountability and oversight to those schools.

How can California fix this low performing system? First, the state needs a clearer accountability system. States like North Carolina and Ohio are great examples of good accountability systems, since they use A-F summative ratings. The District of Columbia is another example, as it uses a star system.

In addition, California has not fully articulated how it will use this dashboard system to identify schools that need additional support. For example, it is unclear how the state will identify low-performing subgroups or what the state would do to improve this low performance.



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