Starting next spring, CA standardized test results to come back in days

By the spring of 2013, schools will likely see how their students did on state exams within 12 days — rather than three months later — because of changes to the STAR testing system, according to the California Department of Education. In other words, the news will come at the end of the school year, rather than over the summer.

Here’s the news release that just arrived from the CDE:

State Schools Chief Torlakson and School Board President Kirst Applaud Improvements to Testing Agreement

CSTs and CMA Results Available in 10-12 Days Rather than Three Months

SACRAMENTO—Following approval of changes to the state’s agreement with Educational Testing Service regarding the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst issued the following statements:

“In keeping with the Governor’s State of the State address, the steps we are taking today will significantly reduce the time it takes to provide test scores to districts and schools. Beginning with the next school year, we expect both the California Standards Tests and the California Modified Assessment results to be reported in a matter of days rather than months, making them both more timely and more useful to our schools,” Torlakson said. “I commend President Kirst for his work with the Department of Education on this project.”

“Getting test results back quickly is a key priority of both the State Board and Governor Brown,” added Kirst. “This change will make our system more useful and responsive to teachers, parents, and students.”

Torlakson continued by saying, “I’m also pleased that we are moving forward with the transition to new assessments aligned to the new Common Core State Standards, including the creation of an advisory committee that will examine the wide range of tests now given to students,” Torlakson added. “This work will allow me to prepare my recommendations to the Legislature later this year about how to achieve a shared, long-standing goal to reduce both the number of tests that are given and the time it takes to receive them—and most importantly, give students, parents, and teachers the best possible information about their progress.”

For more information on the reauthorization, please visit the State Board of Education agenda Item 4 (EDITOR’S NOTE: I think it’s actually Item 9) at http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/ag/ag/yr12/agenda201203.asp.

How do you expect this change will affect you, your school, and your students?


K-12 schools spared worst-case `trigger cuts’ scenario

California school districts will take a $79 million midyear hit — plus a $248 million cut in home-to-school transportation — as a result of automatic “trigger cuts” set to take effect early next year, according to early news reports, including this story from our Sacramento reporter, Steve Harmon.

That’s far below the $1.5 billion many had feared, based on an earlier fiscal analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office that projected an even greater budget shortfall.

The Sacramento Bee has reported that the $79 million works out to a cut of $11 per student. For Oakland Unified, I believe that would amount to roughly $400,000. As we’ve reported, the district administration says it anticipated a larger cut and kept enough funding in its reserves to absorb it without cutting expenses, mid year.

Subsidized child care, university and community college systems would be more deeply affected, however.

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Midyear “trigger cuts” likely for California schools

OAKLAND UPDATE: OUSD spokesman Troy Flint said the district could be forced to absorb midyear cuts of up to $5.5 million, or $190 per student, as a result of the trigger cuts. He said the 2011-12 budget accounts for this possibility. So for this year anyway, he said, “Any impact would be slight and we definitely would not make cuts to schools.”

Alameda Unified schools appear to be similarly situated, according to this letter to parents from Superintendent Kirsten Vital.


The news today out of the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office was not good for public education in California: The LAO has forecasted that state tax revenues will fall $3.7 billion short of the level on which the June budget deal was based.

About $1.4 billion in automatic, mid-year cuts to k-12 schools and community colleges will be triggered if the shortfall is $2 billion or greater. Steve Harmon, our Capitol reporter, lays it out here.

The final word on the trigger cuts comes on December 15, when the Department of Finance issues its predictions. The rosier of the two projections prevails.

The below graphic, reproduced with permission from School Services of California, Inc., helps to break it down. A provision of the trigger law prohibits teacher layoffs, and some districts — though not OUSD –have considered shaving more days off the school year if the cuts come to pass.

Trigger law, explained


Parent Trigger: Coming to a school near you?

Staff Photojournalist Staff Photojournalist
Staff Photojournalist

People who follow education news in California probably have heard of the new law known as the “Parent Trigger.” It allows parents to unionize — and to petition to convert eligible low-performing schools into charters or force major staffing shake-ups, among other interventions.

It was enacted in January 2010, but it wasn’t until this summer that the California Board of Education approved regulations to clarify how it will work.

Parent Revolution, the L.A.-based group behind the law, stopped in Oakland this week on a bus tour through California. Nearly all who came to the information session at Brookfield Elementary School were either part of the bus tour or members of the Oakland chapter of the NAACP, invited by Oakland school board member Alice Spearman. I noticed that only a handful of current OUSD parents (maybe just two or three) were in the room to learn about a movement described by organizer Shirley Ford as “grassroots in every sense of the word.”

That appears to have been by design. Spearman told the small group that she wanted to start with “all the key players in Oakland” to decide whether to form a parent union chapter here. If so, she said, they could bring other groups and “the grassroots parents” into the discussion.

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California’s child care cuts, explained

Preschool. Photo by Laura A. Oda/StaffIn California, more than a half million children take part in a publicly funded child care program while their parents work or go to school.

But the waiting list for one of the coveted seats is 180,000 children long — and about to get longer, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

On Nov. 1, nearly 60,000 children whose families have been off welfare for two years or more will lose their spaces.

Those children and their families are  in what’s known as “Stage 3″ of CalWORKs, the welfare-to-work program. Gov. Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto powers on Friday to strike Stage 3 from the budget.

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School finance in CA: Will it take a lawsuit (or two) to fix it?

Most people I’ve spoken to about California’s school finance system, regardless of their political views, seem to agree that it’s a mess. The researchers on the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence described it as “the most complex in the country, lacking an underlying rationale and transparency,” inequitable, inefficient, unpredictable, unstable and inadequate.

Mike Kirst, the Stanford University education professor emeritus I interviewed today, said he wouldn’t even call it a system. He did call it “an accretion of incremental actions that don’t fit together and that make no sense.”

Will the courts finally force the deadlocked state Legislature to overhaul the complex, arcane formulas that dictate how California allocates money to its schools (and how much)? The nonprofit Public Advocates law firm hopes so. It filed suit today in Alameda Superior Court on behalf of a coalition of advocacy groups, students and parents, saying the status quo denies students the right to a meaningful education. (They also released a video to explain and promote the plaintiff’s case.)

The suit is very similar to an Alameda Superior Court case filed in May by the California PTA, California School Boards Association and an Alameda High School student, Maya Robles-Wong. Continue Reading


Public education in CA: Calling for your forecast

Save our Schools rally in Livermore. (Bay Area News Group file photo)

I’m working on a project about school funding levels in California and what will happen — to class sizes, to teacher pay, to labor relations, to the quality of education — if the downward trend continues.

As usual, I could use your help.

I’m looking at how these cuts will hit some students harder than others, depending on where they live and what their needs are, especially in the lower grades.

I also wonder to what extent the more draconian reductions we’re seeing this year (kindergarten classes of 30 in some East Bay districts, such as Hayward, San Lorenzo and Mt. Diablo) will keep even more middle-class families in California from using the public schools. If that happens, the public school system could become even more segregated. Continue Reading


In the midst of a local contract dispute, some Oakland teachers, students turn to Sacramento

About 40 Oakland parents, teachers and staff will ride their bikes to the state capitol on Saturday — in part, to call attention to the declining support for public education in California. Michael Barglow’s history class at Skyline also headed to Sacramento this week. His brother, Raymond Barglow, tells us how it went. -Katy

It’s one thing for California high school students to read or hear a lecture about how government works. It is quite another for them to experience this in person.

Shortly after 8 a.m. on May 4, a group of 45 students in Michael Barglow’s history class at Skyline High School boarded a charter bus headed for the state capitol.

boarding the bus to Sacramento

Michael’s students had been preparing during the past week to meet with East Bay political representatives: Assemblymembers Sandre Swanson, Nancy Skinner, and Senator Loni Hancock.

The students, accompanied by several adults and student volunteers from UC Berkeley, arrived at the Capitol Building in downtown Sacramento, ready to present some challenging questions to their representatives.

First on the agenda was a discussion with Swanson. The students packed into his office and were greeted first by Swanson’s aide and then by the assemblyman himself. Continue Reading


The schools that didn’t make the list

This week, people in districts throughout California were left wondering why some schools escaped the state’s “persistently lowest-achieving” list, while others — some of them, with higher scores and greater gains — were deemed failing.

It all boils down to size. If a school reported fewer than 100 test scores in any of the last three years, it was taken off the list, regardless of its scores. I’m not sure why, though it would seem the state wants to target larger, more traditional schools rather than alternative schools, which tend to be smaller (and, often, to have lower test scores).

Without this small-school rule, Oakland would have more schools on the list, according to another long list of low-performing schools Continue Reading