California Schools Ranking System Gets a Makeover

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

California is redefining the method it uses to evaluate its public schools as the state looks to make the system more transparent for parents and more precise than it has been with only test scores being used.

The Academic Performance Index has (API) been set aside as the state strives to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is the federal government's replacement for No Child Left Behind.

The State Board of Education presented in Sacramento its latest proposal for "the California Model." The measure was exhibited in a display of 17 colored boxes. The graph, reports Joy Resmovits for the Los Angeles Times, summarizes how a school is performing in certain categories such as math or career readiness. The chart will show the current status of schools across the state and their progress over time.

The criteria for performance include standards set by federal and state law and those assessed under California's new school funding formula. Officials explained that the models and their content were preliminary, but those in attendance debated the graphics used in the model.

The color red applied to graduation and represented too many drop outs. The blue ranking designated the best ranking. Each color used is explained in a "lookup table" made up of a grid of 25 colored boxes that interpret what each color represents.

The mock-up of the new ranking system was designed by Eric Crane of the nonprofit consulting company WestEd. A slideshow was used to show how year-to-year progress does not necessarily improve a school's color ranking.

"There's no hiding performance that would be of concern," he said. The short- and long-term goals, he said, would be for schools to "get to green."

The new federal law requires that states "meaningfully differentiate" between schools' rankings. But the new color coding does not include an overall rating for each state school. The board agreed to mail a letter to federal officials asking for their reaction to the new system.

"Several aspects of the latest version seem overly complicated," said Patty Scripter, vice president for education of the California State PTA. "We encourage the board to pilot-test the words and colors with parents."

The California Model's first draft is published on the web where it is explained that the model incorporates a 5 X 5 grid that delivers 25 results. These results are then coupled into "Status" and "Change" which are equally weighted to create a "Performance Category."

Status is the measure of the current year's performance. Change is the difference in performance between the prior school year and the current year.

The new plan will be taking the place of the former evaluation model which gave state schools a number from 200 to 1,000 based in large part on test scores, writes Alma Fausto for The Orange County Register.

Fausto points out additional factors that will be rated by the California Model, including student attendance, English proficiency, and the availability of college-level classes to high school students.

"Improving school accountability is a priority set by the governor and Legislature under the new school-funding formula," said Michael Kirst, president of the California Board of Education, in a statement.

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