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Panel Discussion Focuses On Education

Published: September 19, 2016

Panelists on stage during the Sept. 14 panel discussion on school accountability.
PHOTO BY KEVIN TRAN
Panelists on stage in the University Student Union’s Beach Auditorium during the Sept. 14 panel discussion on school accountability.

Individuals filled the Beach Auditorium in CSULB’s University Student Union on Sept. 14 to listen to a panel discussion titled “A for Accountability: A Report Card on California’s New Public-School Assessments.”

The event was also made available to a wider audience as it was streamed through a variety of news websites.

The panel discussion was timely in that it came on the heels of the unanimous endorsement last week by the State Board of Education of a new accountability system that will aim to evaluate schools on a broad set of measures, including academics, graduation rates, college preparedness and English-learner proficiency. It replaces the test-based system known as the Academic Performance Index (API), which critics say failed to take into account a host of factors that affect student performance.

The event gave attendees the opportunity to hear experts offer up their thoughts on the new system. The panel included former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Assemblymember and Chair of the Assembly Education Committee, Patrick O’Donnell; Assistant Vice Chancellor of Teacher Education and Public School Programs, California State University, Office of the Chancellor, Marquita Grenot-Scheyer; and Carl A. Cohn, Executive Director, California Collaborative for Educational Excellence. The panel was moderated by CalMatters education staff reporter Judy Lin.

CSULB President Jane Close Conoley provided welcoming remarks, along with CALmatters editor and CEO, Dave Lesher; Southern California News Group managing editor/content, Tom Bray; and Southern California News Group education reporter, Beau Yarbrough.

The panel discussed California’s API, which boiled everything about the state’s K-12 public schools down to a single number between 200 and 1000. If all goes according to plan, the successor to the API will debut in fall 2017 and will include data from the 2016-17 school year.

“What I really like about this (new plan) is the multiple measures,” said Grenot-Scheyer, former dean for the College of Education at CSULB. “You have researchers and faculty right here in the CSU who can help develop the metrics in partnership with the Board of Education and the California Department of Education and including the commission on teacher credentialing. So I see an opportunity for a really important partnership with higher ed, including our community college partners, as we figure out how in the world we’re going to assess this accountability system.”

In the old model, API scores, in part, were based on the desirability of neighborhoods or even whole communities. The magic number was 800. Not reached, careers were affected and under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, failure to steadily increase the underlying test score—even already high ones—could mean consequences for a school or district.

In 2014, California’s State Board of Education halted the calculation of API scores while the state switched over to new standardized tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Those new Smarter Balanced tests, which students took for the second time this past spring, will be just one factor in the new accountability being created to replace the API score.

A draft version of a proposed color-coded reporting system for public schools was released in July. The proposed report card draws a lot from the NCLB-successor, Every Student Succeeds Act. It not only looks at how a school does in English Language Arts and math standardized tests, but also how well students learning English as a second language are doing, graduation rates, chronic absenteeism, suspension rates, college and career readiness and other factors.

The proposed version of the new school report will include a column called the “Equity Report,” that will highlight any subgroups in particular trouble for a category, including poor, English language learners, foster kids, disabled kids, homeless kids and members of various ethnic groups.