New Index Measures School Quality

A collaborative of nine school districts, including Long Beach, introduced their new School Quality Improvement Index this month.  The index uses a system of multiple measures to provide schools, teachers and parents with more and better information to improve student learning.

In addition to academic achievement indicators, the index includes a first-in-nation use of social-emotional and school climate indicators such as attendance and results of student, family and staff surveys.

The index was developed by educators in the nine school systems, who have formed the nonprofit California Office to Reform Education.  Their research-based work includes input from educational accountability experts at Harvard, Stanford and other institutions.

School districts participating in CORE are reviewing the preliminary data from the index and preparing to share the findings with their schools, as well as with parents and others in their school communities.  CORE districts plan to publicly release school-level reports for the initial version of the School Quality Improvement Index (2014-15 data) in early February.

School reports will be made accessible to the public on the CORE districts website at coredistricts.org.

The new system is being watched closely at the state and national levels because it is the nation’s largest demonstration of multiple, local education agencies developing and implementing a system to measure school quality using such a holistic, or more complete, approach.  The CORE districts serve more than one million students.  The new index, unveiled during a California School Boards Association conference in San Diego, is a key element of the CORE districts school accountability system under a federal waiver replacing certain No Child Left Behind (NCLB) rules.

“Our new School Quality Index offers schools a flashlight, not a hammer,” said Mike Hanson, Superintendent of the Fresno Unified School District and chair of the CORE board of directors.  “The school districts participating in the development and use of the index have chosen to shine a brighter, wider light on the needs of all students and on their own educational strategies and practices to improve student learning and achievement.  They are not seeking to avoid accountability, but rather to create a better, more comprehensive system to inform and guide the efforts of schools to improve learning opportunities for students.”

First-year index findings provide a baseline of information.  Academic information accounts for 60 percent of the index and includes measurements of English language arts and mathematics learning, graduation rates and high school readiness rates of eighth graders.

The social-emotional and culture-climate indicators are weighted at 40 percent of the index and include measurements of chronic absenteeism, suspension/expulsion rates, and English learner re-designation rates.  The index ultimately will measure growth in academic achievement, and the social-emotional/culture-climate elements will expand to include student, family and staff surveys next year.

The new accountability system meets the requirements of the recently adopted federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The other CORE districts are Fresno, Garden Grove, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacra-mento, San Francisco, Sanger and Santa Ana.