source: The Willits News 8/30/2017
A national nonpartisan nonprofit commended the development of the
state’s plan for student success designed to comply with the
requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), but
criticized its lack of a clear implementation process according to a
report released last week.
“California’s plan includes several
weaknesses that will limit its ability to effectively communicate with
educators, parents, and other stakeholders,” the report hstates.
to the report by the Boston-based nonprofit Bellwether Education
Partners in collaboration with the Collaborative for Student Success,
while the state appears to have solicited and utilized stakeholder
feedback in the development of the plan and has also adopted
high-quality standards and assessments, it is unclear how the state’s
proposal for a “dashboard” accountability system will be gauged and
incorporated into a comprehensive measure of school quality.
The U.S. Department of Education made public specific provisions
of the Every Student Succeeds Act after then president Barack Obama
signed it into law on Dec. 10, 2015.
The law, among other
provisions, advanced equity by upholding critical protections for
America’s disadvantaged and high-need students, ensured that vital
information was provided to educators, families, students and
communities through annual statewide assessments and maintained an
expectation that there would be accountability to effect positive change
in low performing schools.
One specific concern outlined by the report is the state’s
inability to completely spell out its approach to identify
low-performing schools, which it says it will submit to the U.S.
Department of Education in January 2018.
“The current method of
measuring growth does not actually capture individual students’
improvement over time,” the report states. “Instead, it only tracks
year-over-year changes at the school level, which is susceptible to
differences in the student population enrolled in a given year.”
The report ranks the plan on a five point scale in nine
categories. California earned low ratings in several of the plan’s
component including a score of 2 for its overall vision articulated in
the state’s academic goal for all student subgroups to achieve and
sustain high performance.
“The state may find it somewhat
difficult to quantify and track district, school and student progress
towards realizing it,” the report states, adding the goal of all
students achieving and maintaining high academic performance is tied to
scoring high on state exams, which corresponds with meeting standards.
“The state has not yet determined the time frame over which
schools must achieve this goal, or the time frame for schools identified
for improvement to make sufficient progress. As such, it’s impossible
to know if this goal is ambitious or achievable,” the report states.
Bellwether Report also questioned the state’s plan to identify schools
for comprehensive support and its methodology for identifying student
groups most in need of targeted support.
The plan scored a 1 on
this specific category because according to the analysis, “California
has not clearly articulated how it will combine a school’s various
scores across multiple indicators.”
The state’s proposal is based on multiple tiers of matrices
designed to track performance levels using the School Dashboard. The
average status score is a school that achieves around level three on an
the state assessment, these schools are colored yellow. The average
change score is also colored yellow and corresponds with little or no
change from last year. For both these measures, the highest scores are
colored green and blue, while the lowest are red.
The report said
the current approach could potentially ignore some very low performing
schools, for example, a high school could score red in both achievement
and graduation rates but not be identified if it scored yellow on
Additionally, the state ranked poorly on the academic progress
category, with a score of 1. The report points out there is little
incentive for schools already performing above the state’s goals to
reach toward higher levels, particularly because schools can score
slightly worse performance from the first year to the next and still
qualify as achieving its growth goals.
The state did however score
high on the standards and assessments category with a score of 4 for
its use of the Common Core state standards for mathematics and English
Although the implementation of the Common Core
standards was controversial initially, local educators said there are
advantages to using them and teachers have warmed up to them over time.
seems to me over the last few years the opposition from families has
gone down,” said Jennifer Lockwood, director of Willits Charter School
who added people were in an uproar at first over the fact students were
not being taught skills in the same manner they learned, especially in
“I like how the standards tie together to create a clear plan
across grade levels,” she said. “It’s the same standard, but it expands
over time. I think there was a lot of thought behind the creation of the
common core standards to come up with a cohesive plan, before that was
not the case. In math, for example, students have to know how to use
skills and apply them to real life situations. I think California was
pretty progressive when it came to implementing and training of Common
Willits Unified School District Superintendent Mark
Westerburg said the issue is not with the standards, the real issue lies
with state assessments.
“The problem is measuring the standards’ success,” he said. “We
are implementing them and using them at every grade level but they
aren’t very consistent. The state has created a test that is not widely
acceptable so a lot of districts have gone to using third party
Westerburg said California is one of the few states
that does not require a national standardized test to measure student
success compared to national standards.
Janet Weeks, communications director for the state board of education,
the state has been working on a plan for how state funding will be
implemented since 2013.
Weeks said the federal government provides funding for low income
students, English language learners and foster youth, approximately
$1.8 billion a year or about 2 percent of California’s overall education
budget and added the nonprofit’s report did not look at the entire
educational funding picture. She said instead of looking at all the
federal requirements, they came up with their own rubric based on what
the group felt the state should be doing.
“Our response is that
it’s kind of unfair to rate us without looking at everything the state
is doing,” she said. “We are really proud of what we are doing in
California. We have increased the amount of money school districts have
been getting and we have given local school boards more power on how
they spend those funds based on demographics and other factors.”
Children Now, a policy and advocacy group based out of Oakland
analyzed the state’s ESSA plan and stated the final opportunity for
public comment will be available during the Sept. 13-14 State Board of