SBE faces long line of lobbyist on performance system

SBE faces long line of lobbyist on performance system

(Calif.) The California State Board of Education typically meets every other month for two-day sessions and runs through about thirty or so items.  The September meeting starts at 8:30 today and probably won’t end until late.

And they expect to finish just two items–one of which is likely to take most of the day: action on the state’s new school accountability system.

Expectations are for a record crowd and probably a record number of speakers suggesting changes–some of which the board might actually consider making. But the meeting marks a milestone in a long, four year effort to devise a method for evaluating schools using more than just test scores.

As is the case with most complex and far-reaching public policies, the new accountability system is the product of compromise and will probably be subject to further refinements as time goes on. But some advocacy groups want changes today.

“Although nearly final, the K-12 school accountability system currently proposed by the State Board of Education falls short on many critical elements,” said Samantha Dobbins Tran, Senior Managing Director of Education Policy at Children Now, in a statement.

“However, unless the proposal is amended to incorporate the solutions outlined below, they will be adopting a system that will not increase transparency, meaningful community engagement and improved outcomes for all students at every school,” she said.

The fixes proposed by Children Now are more or less incorporated in a bill pending before Gov. Jerry Brown–AB 2548 by San Diego Democrat Shirley Weber. The legislation would, among other things, enhance the emphasis the system would put on test scores and establish a mechanism to better differentiate school level performance annually.

Meanwhile, other stakeholders have made their own suggestions. A coalition led by EdVoice and the Linked Learning Alliance has argued that the standard for being “prepared” for college or the work force has been set too low for 11th graders.

They said that the proposed system designates students as “prepared” when scoring only at grade level. The group has suggested the standard be changed to require students scoring at grade level qualify as “prepared” only after taking and passing a12th grade course that the California State University would accept credit for.

Although the board originally wanted to make a final decision on the plan this month, the California Department of Education–in the only other item to be considered Thursday–has recommended that deadline be pushed back, perhaps until early in 2017.

The new national education law, passed by Congress a year ago, calls on states to have a new accountability system in place by August, 2017. Central to that requirement is the creation of a statewide plan for fulfilling the new goals of Every Student Success Act to enhance educational equity and improve student performance.

CDE has said the board should wait and submit its plan in March when more is known about the regulations that the U.S. Department of Education may further revise on implementing ESSA.

Thus, the SBE is likely to shift through the scores of suggestions set to come in this week and probably wait until the January meeting to take final action.

Yet another reason the board might want to wait is the disposition of AB 2548–a bill that would seem unlikely to receive Brown’s signature given the effort his appointees to the state board have engaged in building the new accountability system.

But the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Weber, was instrumental two years ago in prevailing on the governor to include a significant accountability provision within the landmark Local Control Funding Formula and many of the same interest groups that backed creation of the Local Control Accountability Plan are lobbying support for her bill including the Dolores Huerta Foundation, California Business Roundtable and United Ways of California.

On its face, the bill’s requirements do not seem to be out of step with what the SBE is already pursing in constructing the new accountability system, though there are some subtle differences, such as introduction of a method for better distinguishing the performance from school to school.

It is also significant that her bill won passage out of both houses of the Legislature without dissent–in the Assembly, 78-0; and 39-0 in the Senate.

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