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State taking teeth off test scores

New school report cards are coming As Madera Unified takes a close look at student performance on the recently released state tests and compares it with those of the previous year, the State Department of Education is taking a giant step toward reducing the impact of those test scores in evaluating schools and school districts.

According to State School Superintendent Tom Torlakson, the California Department of Education has taken action to further distance the state’s schools from the old accountability system in which schools were evaluated almost exclusively by annual test scores.

Instead, Sacramento is building a new accountability system that evaluates schools in 10 areas, with test scores being just one criterion.

State education leaders now want to add performance standards like college and career readiness, graduation rates, progress of English language learners, suspension rates, chronic absenteeism, parent engagement, basic conditions at a school, implementation of standards and school climate to test scores.

“Parents, educators, and the public will soon be able to look at a variety of areas to tell how their school is doing,” said California Board of Education President Michael Kirst.

According to Torlakson, under the updated system, “our parents and our communities will no longer be asked to evaluate a school or a district based on a single number.” The state schools chief insists the new system will give stakeholders “more tools to understand what is happening at their schools.”

By 2017, the state’s report card will look like a rainbow. Schools and districts will fall into one of five performance levels — from top to bottom, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red.

Gone are the days when students took the tests, experts crunched the numbers, and schools were evaluated by the state in terms of an Academic Performance Index, and the federal grade came in the form of Adequate Yearly Progress.

Gone also are the rigid sanctions that came with low test scores. All of that went out the window on July 1, 2013, one year before, under the No Child Left Behind Act, every student had to score proficient in English and math or the school received a failing grade on its report card.

The new grading system is a key element of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which provides more local control over revenues and more resources for students with the greatest needs.


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