California must move ahead on new approach to school accountability

By Michael Kirst The State Board of Education has been working for several years to develop a new accountability system based on the Local Control Funding Formula, which the Legislature and governor passed in 2013. In September, the state board will take an important step forward by establishing a new way to measure progress and identify problems in our schools and districts, giving parents, teachers and community members a better idea of what is happening at their schools. Accountability systems serve multiple functions, including providing guidance to parents, highlighting schools’ strengths and diagnosing their weaknesses, and helping educators design and implement strategies to assist schools. For 15 years, California evaluated schools and districts largely by looking at a single number that relied exclusively on test scores – the Academic Performance Index (API). This gave us a narrow view. A single number is not sufficient to evaluate an employee or buy a house. Similarly, we shouldn’t depend on just one indicator to understand school performance. Furthermore, the API said nothing about other essential components of a successful school such as high school graduation rates, attendance, suspension rates, career and college readiness, and English learner progress. ...

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