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For Release: New Education Sector Report Identifies Key Elements for Building a Better Accountability System for California
Washington D.C. — For years California has been a leader in public education. In 1999, the state implemented some of the strongest content standards in the country through its main accountability metric, the Academic Performance Index (API). The state has also signed onto the Common Core State Standards, taking important steps to ensure its students are college and career ready.
But California faces big challenges. There is growing agreement that the API doesn’t work as well as it should. Relying too heavily on low-level standardized tests, it has become more an indicator of students’ wealth than of a school’s educational quality. This shortcoming has left too many students unprepared for college work. Yet there is little agreement over what should replace the API.
These conversations are not unique to California. They are taking place in statehouses across the country and in the halls of Congress. With the resurgence of states as the primary designers of school accountability systems, a new Education Sector report highlights the issues that states must consider in adopting next-generation accountability systems.
Some Assembly Required: Building a Better Accountability System for California argues that California and many other states have the foundations in place to build better accountability systems — systems that actually focus on meaningful school improvement; they just need to put the pieces together in the right way.
Some Assembly Required is the latest of several Education Sector reports that have examined specific ways to improve accountability in California, including Ready By Design, Measures That Matter, and On Her Majesty's School Inspection Service. Author Kevin Carey draws lessons from each to make a clear recommendation for California lawmakers.
Carey proposes a three-pronged approach to putting California back on a path to national leadership in education. He suggests the state not only gather better information about student outcomes — including data on college remediation, persistence, and completion — but that it learn the right ways to interpret the data. “Accountability systems that include a growth measure of student progress open up an important new lens on school performance,” says Carey. Borrowing from England’s inspectorate model, he also suggests a third component: relying on highly-trained inspectors to make decisions on school improvement, moving away from the rules-based approach of No Child Left Behind.
“Making these sorts of changes will require a significant, but manageable investment,” says Carey. “Some will balk at devoting scarce resources to such spending outside the classroom, but the strategy of building accountability systems on the cheap has proved inadequate.” All the elements of a great, next-generation accountability system in California and elsewhere are there, Carey says. With the looming proficiency deadlines of NCLB, and the impending shift toward Common Core assessments, the time to act, he says, is now.