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California Education Accountability Will Experience Revisions

by Michael Higham, published
Credit: Chad McDermott,

California education accountability

As a consequence of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) adoption, California education accountability will see changes in the near future.

CCSS is a new K-12 curriculum that will take effect in 2014. Along with the new curriculum is a new set of assessments to measure student achievement, which is to be developed by a group of states known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

Accountability is essentially the way in which governments identify the success of schools and school districts. California education accountability currently revolves around the California Standards Test (CST). CST scores are the main factor in the state's academic performance index (API).

The number of programs and organizations involved in California education accountability may cause confusion, but what's clear is that student testing will change.

The relationship between state and federal governments with regards to education will continue to be the focal point of how schools will be measured in the future. California was denied a No Child Left Behind waiver, which leaves the state subject to federal intervention to address under-performing schools. It is also unclear at this point whether or not the federal government will revise its education laws.

Paul Warren of the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) conducted research that dug deep into this angle of education. In his publication titled "California's Changing K-12 Accountability Program," he found that API scores have not been reflective of student growth.

Credit: California Department of Education,

California education accountability

Since the adoption of API, K-12 schools in California seem to have had a steady increase in performance. API scores depend on performance growth by schools and districts from the previous year. Judging from API scores alone, one could not tell if the quality of instruction caused growth. Warren explains a likely cause of the higher scores:

"A study of nine California middle schools concluded that API growth was the result of teachers aligning instruction with the content of state tests, not better teaching methods or students’ deeper understanding of the material.”
"The greater focus on tested subjects also contributes to a narrowing of the curriculum, reducing time devoted to subjects that are not tested"

What's important to understand about API scores is that it does not follow students through the years. For example, an 8th grade class' performance is compared to last year's 8th grade class. Through this measurement of growth, improvement of the individual student is not measured.

Credit: California Department of Education,

California education accountability

Warren drove his point home when looking at the most recent English CST scores from grades two to eleven. The percentage of students scoring proficient and above fluctuate through grade levels. API scores would not follow a class through the years, which may ineffectively measure the growth of students.

Warren ultimately advocates the Common Core Standards adoption and believes it will result in more effective accountability. The specific changes that will be made are yet to be fleshed out.

The PPIC will host a discussion on this topic entitled "K-12 Accountability from the Local Perspective," on January 23, beginning at noon. The discussion will focus on how local school boards are anticipating changes to curriculum and testing standards. Although the event will not be live-streamed, PPIC will post the discussion shortly after.

Paul Warren explains the situation of California education accountability in his own words:

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