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  • Friday, August 09, 2013


    State scores drop- new CORE districts leave test

    STAR scores drop in last year before CORE districts opt out…
    California Department of Education releases 2013 disappointing STAR results

    In a press release, California Superintendent of Education Tom Torlakson reported that the statewide-California 2013 STAR (Standardized Testing and Accountability Report) scores were slightly lower in math, English-language arts and science ( for OUSD STAR scores CLICK ON: OUSD ).

    This was the first state-wide drop in scores since the Great Recession started in 2007. In previous Great Recession years, the California Department of Education touted the annual rise in scores despite the budget cuts. In the first drop state-wide in the bell-weather subjects, the state chief blamed the five-year old state-wide budget cuts with the press release sub-heading:

    “Statewide scores slip slightly amid budget cuts, transition to Common Core”

    The terser that unusual press release explained:

    “Statewide, 51.2 percent of students posted a score of proficient and above in mathematics, which was 0.3 of a percentage point lower than last year. In English-language arts, 56.4 percent of students scored proficient and above, 0.8 of a percentage point lower than in 2012. In science, 59.1 percent scored proficient and above, 0.4 of a percentage point lower than the 59.5 percent achieved in 2012. Students showed gains in history-social science, with 49.4 percent scoring at least proficient, an increase of 0.6 of a percentage point over last year's 48.8.”

    ( For full text CLICK ON: Torlakson)

    STAR scores In last year before CORE districts opt out 
    The public release of STAR scores came just days after the federal government announced a waiver for eight of California’s school districts from the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates. The eight districts include California’s largest districts and some of its lowest performing: Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Oakland, San Francisco, Fresno, Long Beach, Sacramento, and Sanger. Together the districts educate over 1.1 million students. The waiver is the first time the federal government granted waivers to districts with-in a state (39 states and the District of Columbia have similar waivers). In so doing, it is the first time that a two-tier system of state accountability has been established.

    The eight districts united as the CORE (California Office to Reform Education) districts. Despite the governmental sounding name, the California Office of Educational Reform is a non-governmental non-profit, privately funded organization (CLICK ON: CORE ).  With the waiver, the CORE districts now escape from the threat of sanctions in 2014 for failing to meet the NCLB mandates that all students be proficient in math and English by 2014. The re-authorization of NCLB which was passed by a bi-partisan coalition under President G.W. Bush, has been stalled in the political morass of the last two Congresses. CORE is privately funded by some top educational private reform entities.

    The federal waiver also gives the districts flexibility in how they use their federal Title 1 funding- which amounts to over $150 million between them. In exchange for the waiver, the districts had to agree to use student test scores to evaluate teachers and to devise a new system of testing- they call the School Quality Improvement Index (SQII). . That system is based 60% on student scores and graduation rates and 40% on “social and emotional factors”. Those non-score factors include 20% “school culture and climate” scores from parent and student “surveys” and 20% on factors such as “absenteeism and suspension rate”.  The CORE districts will also count subgroups of as few as 20 students (under NCLB a subgroup was 100 or more).

    While the CORE district administrators greeted the news with elation and promises of a new accountability, the waiver was criticized by Washington D.C. national educational advocacy organization Education Trust for the new piecemeal approach.

    “Moving away from a common system of statewide accountability and a state-led commitment to improving student outcomes will result in different expectations for students from one district to the next. Considerable experience tells us that for low-income students and students of color, different expectations far too often mean lowered expectations.

    To be clear, these concerns would hold even if the approved plan reflected a strong, well-developed policy framework. But it does not. Rather, the CORE plan has neither a finalized accountability system nor finalized guidelines for teacher evaluations.”

    For full text CLICK ON: Educational Trust PR

    Ironically, the two non-profits, the Educational Trust and the CORE districts share some big time educational funding sources:
    CLICK ON: CORE Funders and Ed Trust Funders

    Also critical of the CORE district's waiver was the California Teachers Association. CTA President Dean Vogel wrote in a press release titled " Divisive Waivers from NCLB Law for 8 Districts Leave Teachers Out and Students Behind " :

    As educators, we are committed to improving the conditions of teaching and learning, advancing the cause of a quality public education system and ensuring that the dignity and civil rights of all children are protected. At a time when we are working hard in California to implement positive changes that ensure all students get a fair shot at a quality education, this top-down move that excluded teacher input is absurd, counterproductive and divisive.
    “By approving this waiver, Secretary Duncan once again demonstrates how his rhetoric that educators be actively involved in education change is just that—rhetoric.  Not one of the local teachers’ associations in the eight school districts was included in the discussion or signed the waiver application"

    The CTA release also criticized the waivers as interfering with the states progress on the Local Control Funding Formula, creating a two system testing regime and creating a new bureaucratic structure for the CORE districts.

    (for the Full text CLICK ON:  CTA on Waivers)

    The consequences for future STAR testing results are that they will no longer include some of the largest and lowest performing state districts. Under the two-test California system, neither the STAR or the yet to be devised SQII will no longer give any accurate measure of state-wide accountability. This of course will eventually lead to the problem of whether an educational house so divided-can still stand.

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