The Education Trust-West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-k through college.

Accountability for Student Results

Accountability for Student Results

No policy area has experienced greater tectonic shifts over the past year than districts and school accountability. For over a decade, California has operated under a dual accountability model. Parents, educators, policymakers, and even realtors have measured school quality using the state’s Academic Performance Index (API), a tidy three-digit score ranging from 200-1000. Meanwhile, the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)—a central component of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)—has determined whether or not a school or district is “failing” based on English and math results and graduation rates. Failure to meet AYP results in a series of escalating interventions called “Program Improvement.”

In 2013, this two-part system experienced tremendous upheaval. Local, state, and federal policies altered and further divided the system, creating four distinct school and district accountability systems.

Let’s first address what happened at the state level.

In 2012, education leaders and advisers committed themselves to introducing college and career readiness measures to the API, as legislated by State Sen. Darrell Steinberg’s Senate Bill 1458. Then, in 2013, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 484, a law that managed, in one fell swoop, to transition the state to Common Core-aligned assessments, abandon a host of existing assessments, and pause reporting of the API. The API will likely come back online after the state has fully transitioned to the new Smarter Balanced assessments, but it will not look the same. Currently, state leaders are at an impasse, uncertain as to what data the API will contain, although new measures will include, at minimum, graduation rates and college and career readiness information.

A month before signing AB 484, Gov. Brown and the Legislature passed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Districts are now required to develop Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) that map their goals and plans against eight priority areas. The state also created a new entity, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE), to advise and assist school districts in improving performance and to help them achieve the goals set forth in their LCAPs. In some cases, the CCEE can also intervene in failing schools. With these accountability changes introduced by LCFF, it is unclear whether the API could or should serve the same purpose as it did before.

Meanwhile, the federal system experienced similarly dramatic shifts.

With NCLB long overdue for reauthorization the U.S. Department of Education offered states the opportunity to apply for waivers from key provisions of the law. Early in 2013, the Department rejected California’s request for a waiver. The following month, a consortium of school districts participating in the California Office to Reform Education (CORE) announced they would seek their own wavier, which they were granted in August 2013. These eight unified districts (Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Sanger, and Santa Ana) are now constructing their own system of accountability to replace AYP. They will measure their schools on a host of indicators and support them through peer coaching, collaboration, and communities of practice. The hundreds of California districts that are not in CORE are still required to follow the federal AYP model.

With all this as a backdrop, we recommend state leaders streamline our systems of accountability and maintain a focus on strong student results. An accountability system that is fragmented, that contains too many indicators, and that drifts away from a focus on student academic achievement will risk confusing stakeholders and muddying the definition of school success.

In order to ensure that California’s education system includes strong accountability for results, we recommend that state leaders:

  1. Create clear alignment between California’s multiple accountability systems.
  2. Create a comprehensive vision for accountability, including a framework that describes the relationships between the LCAP and the API and between the CCEE and the current system of Program Improvement. This framework should also address how public reports, such as the School Accountability Report Card (SARC), support and complement this vision. This type of framing would help guide and focus the work of California’s educators and would create transparency for the public.

  3. Develop an accountability system that includes multiple—but not too many—measures of student
    results.
  4. We support the expansion of the API to include measures of college and career readiness and agree that we are long overdue in making graduation rates part of our accountability system. And as the state transitions to new assessments, we urge leaders to use the opportunity to introduce measures of both student achievement at one point in time and also student growth over time. However, we urge restraint around combining too many measures within the main accountability system. Instead, we suggest measuring and reporting a number of other related indicators through separate indices alongside the student results data. These measures include student attendance and absenteeism; school climate and safety; English learner reclassification and long-term English learner rates; suspension and expulsion rates; and college and career supports, including FAFSA and Cal Grant application rates. Certainly, there are many factors, such as the ones listed above, that make a school successful, and it is helpful to measure the most important ones. But mixing them all together into a single index does not acknowledge this complexity; it glosses over it. Further, ensure that any indicator in a state priority area is valid, reliable, and comparable between districts.

  5. Ensure that the accountability system drives improvement.
  6. In order for our accountability system
    to change outcomes for students, it must include targets that are rigorous but attainable.
    California should establish clear statewide goals by subgroup for a focused set of valid, reliable measures that include academic achievement, graduation, and a-g rates, and publicly report progress toward these goals. District goals, such as those included in LCAPs, should be tied to these state goals. Schools and districts that fail to make sufficient progress toward these goals should receive escalating assistance and interventions. In cases where schools and districts persistently fail to achieve goals, the state should take swift action.

 

Publications on Accountability:

The Language of Reform: English Learners in California’s Shifting Education Landscape

The Language of Reform: English Learners in California's Shifting Education Landscape

October 22, 2014

Amber Banks, Practice Associate
The Education Trust—West

Leni Wolf, Data and Policy Analyst
The Education Trust—West

To watch a video recording of the webinar, click here

Presented: 
October 22 2014

The Language of Reform: English Learners in California's Shifting Education Landscape

California, a state rich in cultural and linguistic diversity, serves 1.4 million English learners—more than any other state in the country and accounting for almost one-third of English learners in the entire U.S. Too often, these students face insufficient academic supports, ill-prepared teachers, and less rigorous coursework, causing them to struggle academically. However, a new analysis finds it does not have to be this way. The Education Trust–West identifies a number of districts across California that are breaking this pattern.

Publication date: 
September 23 2014

LCAP Evaluation Checklist

This month, districts across California are holding public hearings on their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) and will adopt final budget plans by the end of June. During this exciting time, stakeholders have the opportunity to review and comment on these plans. To help support that process, The Education Trust—West (ETW) has developed a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Evaluation Checklist.

Publication date: 
June 6 2014

Ed Trust-West Releases LCAP Evaluation Checklist

Dear Friends and Partners,

This month, districts across California are holding public hearings on their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) and will adopt final budget plans by the end of June. During this exciting time, stakeholders have the opportunity to review and comment on these plans.

To help support that process, The Education Trust—West (ETW) has developed a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Evaluation Checklist. Our LCAP Evaluation Checklist is designed to help stakeholders—including advisory committee members and the general public—review district LCAPs and frame their comments and questions. It is meant to assist in evaluating whether an LCAP meets legal requirements and whether it clearly communicates district goals and plans in keeping with the spirit of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). It is not meant to evaluate the quality or likely effectiveness of proposed programs and services.

Learning from District Success:Promising Practices from The Education Trust–West’s District Report Cards

Learning from District Success:
Promising Practices from The Education Trust–West’s District Report Cards

 

April 30, 2014

Dr. Jeannette LaFors, Director of Equity Initiatives, The Education Trust-West
Leni Wolf, Data & Policy Analyst, The Education Trust-West  

To watch a video recording of the webinar, click here

 

Presented: 
April 30 2014

Ed Trust–West Releases Fourth Annual Report Cards Grading the Largest Unified School Districts on Outcomes for Latino, African-American and Low-income Students

OAKLAND, CA (April 8, 2014) – Today, The Education Trust–West (ETW) releases its fourth annual District Report Cards, grading and ranking California’s largest unified districts on academic and college readiness outcomes for Latino, African-American, and low-income students.

 

The Education Trust-West 2014 Policy Agenda

The past several years have jolted California’s education system like never before. Seismic shifts in school finance, standards, curriculum, and instruction sent shockwaves through our state’s education policy landscape. Long-familiar landmarks in school finance, accountability, and assessment were replaced by a host of new initiatives, including the Local Control Funding Formula, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, Common Core State Standards, and Next Generation Science Standards. In the coming years, as they ripple through our education system, these new initiatives have the potential to shift California’s focus more towards equity and close our state’s achievement and opportunity gaps. But we also know that without close attention to equitable implementation, these initiatives could widen existing gaps and create new fissures between our highest need students and their more advantaged peers. In our 2014 Policy Agenda, we recommend steps that policymakers should take in four core policy areas to ensure that students of color, low-income students, and English learners benefit from the changes in our education landscape.

Publication date: 
February 14 2014

Learning from District Success:Promising Practices from The Education Trust – West’s District Report Cards

"Learning from District Success: Promising Practices from Education Trust-West's District Report Cards"

By Jeannette LaFors, Director of Equity Initiatives, The Education Trust-West;
Lindsey Stuart, Data and Policy Analyst, The Education Trust-West 

Webinar
April 11, 2013

Presented: 
April 11 2013

Ed Trust–West Releases Third Annual Report Cards Grading the 148 Largest Unified Districts on Outcomes for Latino, African-American, and Low-income Students

OAKLAND, CA (April 3, 2013) – Today, The Education Trust–West (ETW) releases its third annual District Report Cards (http://reportcards.edtrustwest.org/), grading and ranking California’s largest unified districts on outcomes for Latino, African-American, and low-income students. Once again, this year’s report cards reveal higher poverty districts that are consistently achieving strong academic results, and graduating high numbers of college-eligible Latino, African-American, and low-income students.   

“Just as students receive report cards that measure their performance and progress in school, ETW develops annual report cards that grade California school districts on how well they are educating their Latino, African-American, and low-income students,” said Lindsey Stuart, Data and Policy Analyst at The Education Trust–West.  

At a Crossroads: A Comprehensive Picture of How African-American Youth Fare in L.A. County Schools

Today, The Education Trust–West releases At a Crossroads: A Comprehensive Picture of How African-American Youth Fare in Los Angeles County Schools and accompanying Prezi. Using data from multiple sources, the report finds that academic and socioemotional outcomes for African-American students in L.A. County are poor overall. However, it also identifies school districts where African-American students are doing better on a range of outcomes including academic performance, graduation rates, A-G completion rates, suspension rates, special education identification rates, and health and wellness indicators.  

Publication date: 
February 25 2013