Would your kid’s school be a 1 or a 5?

LAUSD con­sid­ers a new rat­ing sys­tem to judge per­for­mance.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Howard Blume

Los An­ge­les Uni­fied is con­sid­er­ing its first-ever plan to pro­vide a rat­ing scale for pub­lic schools and pri­vately run char­ters, a move aimed at giv­ing par­ents and ed­u­ca­tors sim­ple and ac­ces­si­ble anal­y­sis of cam­pus per­for­mance, doc­u­ments re­viewed by The Times show.

If it moves for­ward, the ef­fort to rate schools on a scale of 1 to 5 would al­low for a di­rect com­par­i­son of aca­demic pro­grams in a way that would ben­e­fit some schools and present oth­ers in an un­flat­ter­ing light. The pro­posal is al­ready rais­ing red flags among crit­ics who say such sim­pli­fied rat­ings would be un­fair to some schools.

“Schools are not restau­rants and should NOT be rated!” said Juan Flecha, pres­i­dent of the school ad­min­is­tra­tors union, in an email. “I think this is de­mor­al­iz­ing and a slap to all of the ded­i­cated em­ploy­ees of schools re­ceiv­ing one, two, and three stars.”

The sys­tem, which could roll out as soon as Oc­to­ber, ap­pears to have luke­warm sup­port from Supt. Austin Beut­ner and mixed sup­port from Board of Ed­u­ca­tion mem­bers.

“We have to, as a dis­trict, get com­fort­able talk­ing about re­sults,” said board mem­ber Nick Melvoin, who sup­ports the pro­posed sys­tem.

The goal is to al­low all schools to be com­pared “side by side with con­sis­tent data,” ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments. Most of a school’s score would be based on stu­dents’ per­for­mance on state stan­dard­ized tests. More credit would be given for a school’s test im­prove­ment rate rather than the scores.

At el­e­men­tary and mid­dle schools, 45% of a rat­ing would be based on test im­prove­ment and 35% on the score. The fi­nal 20% would be based on how well the school is keep­ing sus­pen­sion rates low and pre­vent­ing chronic ab­sen­teeism.

At the high school level, 40% of the rat­ing would be based on a school’s test im­prove­ment and 25% on scores. Again, 20% would be based on sus­pen­sion num­bers and ab­sen­teeism. An­other 15% would take in fac­tors in­clud­ing the grad­u­a­tion rate, the per­cent­age of stu­dents who qual­ify for ad­mis­sion to a four-year state col­lege and stu­dent per­for­mance on the stan­dard­ized ex­ams re­lated to Ad­vanced Place­ment cour­ses.

The for­mula takes into ac­count how well smaller groups, such as Lati­nos or African Amer­i­can stu­dents, are far­ing. If such a group is do­ing es­pe­cially poorly, it would count against the school’s over­all num­ber.

The new School Per­for­mance Frame­work is an out­growth of a res­o­lu­tion passed by the school board on April 10, 2018, sev­eral weeks be­fore Beut­ner was hired. It was brought for­ward by Melvoin and Kelly Gonez.

Melvoin said he ex­pects the sys­tem to be in ef­fect by Oc­to­ber, when par­ents will be us­ing a rel­a­tively new on­line ap­pli­ca­tion for mag­net schools and other pro­grams.

“We need a vo­cab­u­lary to talk about schools that are high- and low-per­form­ing,” as well as which schools are hav­ing more suc­cess with sim­i­lar stu­dents, Melvoin said. “There is this myth that we al­ready know this in­for­ma­tion. If we know this and are not do­ing some­thing about it, then that’s a prob­lem. I ac­tu­ally don’t think we know this.”

On that part, Beut­ner is in agree­ment.

“We need as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble for those in the school com­mu­nity — for school lead­ers — to un­der­stand where the op­por­tu­ni­ties are, to un­der­stand what re­sources can be brought to bear,” he said.

In a re­lated ef­fort, he added, the dis­trict is try­ing to get all in­for­ma­tion about in­di­vid­ual stu­dents into one place so that ev­ery­one in­volved with help­ing a par­tic­u­lar stu­dent knows nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion.

As far as rat­ing schools, “I think that’s a mixed bag,” Beut­ner said. “I’m not so sure what one achieves with the sum­ma­tive rank­ing — whether it’s stars, let­ters, la­bels or num­bers.

“We’ll come back to our board for fur­ther guid­ance,” in the com­ing months, he said. “Whether we ac­tu­ally take that last step and de­cide to do it or not, we’re not there yet.”

Beut­ner’s timetable ap­pears to be at odds with Melvoin’s un­der­stand­ing and with staff pre­sen­ta­tions, which point to the Oc­to­ber roll­out. As laid out in dis­trict doc­u­ments, char­ters would join the ef­fort once they work out the best way to pro­vide data to the dis­trict.

The rat­ing sys­tem ap­pears to have buy-in from at least some char­ter school lead­ers, who ap­par­ently pro­vided in­put through in­vi­ta­tion-only fo­rums. Par­ents and teach­ers from dis­tric­trun schools also were in­volved in the unan­nounced fo­rums that took place from Au­gust 2018 through last April. It’s not clear to what ex­tent there was par­tic­i­pa­tion from lead­ers of the teach­ers union, al­though the union rep­re­sent­ing ad­min­is­tra­tors took part.

Flecha said his un­der­stand­ing is that the sys­tem will have a soft launch this fall and then a full un­veil­ing in Jan­uary. Yet he and oth­ers ques­tion the fair­ness of com­par­isons.

Char­ters, for ex­am­ple, are schools of choice; par­ents opt to put chil­dren into these schools. L.A. Uni­fied has its own schools of choice called mag­net pro­grams. Schools of choice, whether char­ter or mag­net, typ­i­cally have higher-per­form­ing stu­dents and more in­volved par­ents, some ex­perts say.

In ad­di­tion, achieve­ment data cor­re­late to fam­ily pros­per­ity. Chil­dren from lower-in­come fam­i­lies have lower test scores than chil­dren from more pros­per­ous fam­i­lies. Nonethe­less, it’s also true that chil­dren from low-in­come fam­i­lies per­form bet­ter at some schools than oth­ers.

Dis­trict in­sid­ers also are con­cerned about what would hap­pen to a school with low rat­ings af­ter sev­eral years. But dis­trict lead­ers in­sist the fo­cus is sim­ply to help schools, to use re­sources more ef­fec­tively.

In other dis­tricts, of­fi­cials have used rat­ing sys­tems as the ba­sis to re­place school staffs, shut down schools or con­vert them to char­ters, said ed­u­ca­tion his­to­rian Diane Rav­itch, a critic of char­ter schools.

Florida, she noted, created an A to F grad­ing sys­tem, “which the state uses to pun­ish schools and turn them over to char­ter op­er­a­tors .... The stu­dents, wher­ever they are en­rolled, need smaller classes and more sup­ports, in­side and out­side the class­room,” she said.

Cal­i­for­nia used to have a rat­ing sys­tem for ev­ery school called the Aca­demic Per­for­mance In­dex, or API, a three-digit num­ber based en­tirely on test scores. In ad­di­tion, schools also were ranked from 1 to 10 based on how they com­pared with schools statewide. This rank­ing came in two forms: how the school did over­all on tests and how it com­pared to sim­i­lar schools.

“Rank­ing sys­tems ... all they do is that they tell us what we al­ready know, which is that the schools serv­ing the most dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents are not do­ing well,” said UCLA ed­u­ca­tion pro­fes­sor Pe­dro Noguera.

“What you don’t want to do is pe­nal­ize schools for serv­ing dis­ad­van­taged kids,” Noguera said.

The state has moved away from rank­ings in fa­vor of a “dash­board” that as­signs col­ors sig­ni­fy­ing per­for­mance lev­els in dif­fer­ent ar­eas. Some ex­perts have found the new sys­tem con­fus­ing and of lit­tle use in com­par­ing schools.

Melvoin said the dis­trict is try­ing to strike a mid­dle ground be­tween puni­tive sys­tems of the past and the state’s over-cor­rec­tion of the present.

He added that par­ents are re­ly­ing on pri­vately run school rat­ing sys­tems of ques­tion­able qual­ity.

“We wanted to cre­ate some­thing that was bet­ter,” he said.

Times staff writer Son­ali Kohli con­trib­uted to this re­port.

FRANCINE ORR Los An­ge­les Times

A CLASS at Down­town Mag­nets High School. A pro­posed rat­ing sys­tem that could roll out in Oc­to­ber seems to have mild sup­port from Supt. Austin Beut­ner.

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