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?


Charter school accountability debate

Yesterday, the California Charter Schools Association caused a stir. The pro-charter group came out with a list of 10 independently-run schools it deemed underperforming — and encouraged their respective school districts to close them when their 5-year contracts expire!

That list included West County Community High in Richmond, as my colleague Hannah Dreier reported in today’s paper. Leadership High in San Francisco was also on it.

The complete list included 31 schools, but the association only published the names of those that are nearing the end of their 5-year terms and seeking a charter renewal.

Here’s the reasoning behind the mov, from the news release:

“We cannot have an honest discussion about education reform and increasing accountability without closing the charters that have demonstrated an inability to meet the challenge of excellence–granted to us by law–and chronically underperform. Our accountability framework has been pressure tested, analyzed and deliberated thoroughly. The time to act on persistently low-performing schools is now, because our children’s education cannot be put on the back-burner,” said Myrna Castrejón, senior vice president, Achievement and Performance Management, CCSA.

The “call for non-renewal” was criticized by another state charter group, the Charter Schools Development Center. The center put out a statement today, noting flaws in California’s testing system and arguing that renewal decisions should not be purely based on test scores.

What do you make of all this?

To meet the association’s minimum standard, a school needs to have one of these three things (copied directly from the news release):

  • Academic Performance Index (API) score of at least 700 in most recent year
  • 3-year cumulative API growth of at least 50 points (2010-11 growth + 2009-10 growth + 2008-09 growth)
  • Within range of or exceeding predicted performance based on similar student populations statewide, for at least two out of the last three years, based on CCSA’s metric, the Similar Students Measure.

California’s 2011 test scores are out

It’s every k-12 education reporter’s favorite time of year: test score day! (I meant to post this earlier, but after sorting my 27th spreadsheet, my mind was rendered temporarily useless.)

Do you want to see how your school did last school year? You can find a spreadsheet with multiple tabs (East Bay, Oakland, and Oakland sorted by API score and growth) here. If you want to see it in print, we’re running a big chart listing the API scores and No Child Left Behind status of all the schools in our area in tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) paper. Here is a link to the California Department of Education’s website.

For my story on No Child Left Behind, I talked to two Oakland principals — Marco Franco, of Sobrante Park, and Charles Wilson, of Fred T. Korematsu Discovery Academy — about their experiences with Program Improvement, a status that is shared by more schools each year as the student proficiency standards get tougher. (By 2014, all students are supposed to reach proficiency in reading and math, as the federal law is currently written.)

Continue Reading


Investigators allege systemic, decade-long cheating in Atlanta schools

Have you been following the cheating scandal in Atlanta? Beverly Hall, the superintendent implicated in the recent state investigation, was named national superintendent of the year in 2009 by the American Association of School Administrators — in part, for her students’ rising test scores.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports today, the Georgia governor’s special investigators believe this behavior went on for as long as a decade:

Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets.

Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible.

Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn.

For years — as long as a decade — this was how the Atlanta school district produced gains on state curriculum tests. The scores soared so dramatically they brought national acclaim to Hall and the district, according to an investigative report released Tuesday by Gov. Nathan Deal.

What do you think we, as a nation, should take away from this news? That it’s a mistake to reward or punish educators based on their students’ test scores? That it’s easier than you might think to game the system?

Are you surprised at the lengths to which top administrators went, according to the report, to meet their goals (and cover up their actions)?


New rankings for Oakland schools

Yesterday was so hectic that I neglected to post a link to the new statewide and similar schools rankings. You can find a list of all schools in Alameda County and their API ranks, from 1 to 10, here.

Here’s a (hopefully) functional, but not very pretty spreadsheet that breaks out the data for Oakland schools. There are several tabs — some are sorted by school name, ranking, and/or type of school and ranking.

You can find an explanation of the two kinds of rankings in this story.

Do the statewide and/or the similar schools rankings matter to you?


What the dog thought — and what it tells us about standardized tests

Now that standardized testing season is upon us, retired OUSD teacher Steven Weinberg offers another critique of the California Standards Tests.

Steven WeinbergMany people wonder why teachers object so strongly to the use of standardized test results to evaluate their teaching. After all, some would argue, student learning is the whole purpose of education, and these tests are supposed to measure student learning.

One reason teachers object to these tests is that they know what a poor job the tests do in actually measuring student learning. They have seen the tests and know how flawed and arbitrary they can be. It is hard to share this information with the public because teachers are forbidden from divulging the contents of the test to anyone, and they can be penalized severely for doing so.

Continue Reading


Announcing … the Title I awards

This just in from the California Department of Education:

Academic achievement awards for 209 schools that serve large numbers of poor children and are closing the achievement gap. (Criteria explained here.) There are fourteen awardees in Oakland — 10 district elementary schools, four charter schools — and two in Berkeley. They were selected from the 6,000-plus schools statewide that participate in the Title I program for low-income students.

Last year, there were just six in Oakland and one in Berkeley to earn this distinction.

Here’s the list of East Bay awardees:

Jefferson Elementary
Washington Elementary

Continue Reading


Who’s attending CA’s elite public schools?

I finally got around to sorting state-level test score data, something I’ve been meaning to do since the Academic Performance Index release last month. (Boy, is it harder than it should be. Those mismatched column headers…)

Hillcrest Elementary/Tribune file photoFive of Oakland’s schools are up in the top 100 — roughly 1 percent of all public schools in California — when sorted by API: the three American Indian Model charter schools, Montclair and Hillcrest.

The American Indian Public Charter School in East Oakland’s Laurel District was the highest-performing middle school in the state, with an API of 988. (Not including schools with K-8 or 6-12 grade configurations, whose middle school scores aren’t broken out here.)

Here are some more data points:

  • Only nine schools in the top 100 educate a “significant” number of low-income students, as defined by NCLB (which means they need to report the scores of that group of kids); three of those nine are the American Indian Model schools.
  • None of the top 100 schools had aggregate scores for black students or special needs students, meaning their numbers are too small. And while Latino children make up nearly half of California’s public school population, their scores are included at just eight of the 100 schools. Continue Reading

API, AYP, PI, and NCLB again

Today, the state released a slew of test score data — a new Academic Performance Index for each school and district as well as their No Child Left Behind status. See a list of all Alameda County districts and schools here, and click here for a two-tab spreadsheet of Oakland schools and their API scores. The second tab is sorted by school level and score.

The NCLB upshot:

Three Oakland elementary schools (Horace Mann Elementary, New Highland Academy and Bridges Academy at Melrose) made it off the federal watchlist known as Program Improvement this year. This means they met the ever-rising No Child Left Behind test score targets — all of them — two years in a row.

Thirteen others, however, missed those targets for two straight years and entered Program Improvement. Those schools are:

Continue Reading