California has been developing a new accountability system since before the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) put this on the radar for most states. After facing criticism that their previous measure—the Academic Performance Index (API)—was only reflective of test scores and excluded more nuanced information parents needed to know, the State Board of Education has released a new color-coded dashboard based on six indicators.
While using a broader set of indicators will provide greater detail for parents, educators, and lawmakers, many are concerned that the new system provides too many data points with no summative rating, making it difficult to interpret. In a recent editorial, the Los Angeles Times recommends that the State Board consider the proposal raised by Parent Revolution, working in partnership with Teach Plus with technical support from the Center for American Progress.
In the report, The Future of California’s School Accountability System, Parent Revolution offers additions to California’s newly designed dashboard. Their proposal would still include the multiple indicators with color-coding, which allows parents and stakeholders to drill down to a detailed level, and then they recommend breaking the indicators into one of three or five categories, to accurately represent the highest and lowest performers. Additionally, they recommend putting an overall quality rating at the top of the dashboard so people can more easily identify how the school is performing. Finally, they recommend splitting out academic and non-academic ratings. As the LA Times notes, “In other words, it quickly answers the question: What does all this mean?”
For advocates working on their state’s accountability systems, this report offers valuable explanations on the uses of accountability systems, easy-to-understand descriptions of some of the technical details in the system, and the real-world implications for parents and students.