Published May 03, 2016
One set of California school standards has temporarily fallen victim to another.
California's school accountability system and its new Common Core academic standards were put head-to-head on Wednesday, and Common Core won.
At a meeting in Sacramento, the state's Board of Education suspended its Academic Performance Index for the 2014-2015 school year. The move is intended to give teachers and students time to adjust to new standardized tests aligned with the Common Core standards.
The suspended index used student results on statewide tests to rank schools and to identify those that need improvement.
School board President Michael Kirst said the state wants to make sure it is measuring student growth, not just baseline performance, on the new Smarter Balanced tests.
The Common Core benchmarks adopted by a majority of states around the nation have come under fire in recent years, largely from conservatives who decry them as a federal infringement on school policy. The standards were approved for implementation by individual states, though the U.S. Department of Education encouraged their adoption through initiatives like Race to the Top.
In California, by contrast, the Common Core standards have been largely embraced by district leaders, parents and teacher unions.
Kirst said even if the new test results aren't used on the state index, they will still be reported at the school, district and state level.
"They'll be held accountable to the public," Kirst said.
Several districts, including Los Angeles Unified, the nation's second-largest, requested that this year's assessments not be used for accountability purposes, arguing that students have not had enough time to practice on testing devices and that the new tests could not be reliably compared to the old pencil-and-paper standardized tests that California children took to measure growth.
"We need that next year to look at this issue of growth," said Edgar Zarzueta, LAUSD chief of external affairs.
The Smarter Balanced tests are required to be taken on a computer or tablet. At LAUSD, there were numerous problems when a practice test was administered, including the website crashing and slow connectivity.
Those issues appear to be resolved: The tests are now being administered in 94 Los Angeles schools, and officials said Tuesday there were no major issues.
The tests evaluate students in grades three through eight and 11 in Common Core-aligned English-language arts and math.
Suspending the state's evaluation system means scores in the first year won't be used to take any corrective actions. Numerous parent, teacher and education organizations commented in favor of the delay at Wednesday's meeting.
"We feel that accountability is very important to the public, but it's sensible to delay because the information is not all going to be clear and solid and current and we need the transition time," said Celia Jaffe, education commissioner of the California State PTA.
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