New School Assessment Method Focuses on Growth

Dr. Alex Cherniss, superintendent for the San Marino Unified School District, said he has high hopes for the state’s modified assessment methods for its public schools.
Schools will now factor in a variety of ancillary factors for students, on top of testing and proficiency, to determine their effectiveness while identifying areas ripe for improvement, Cherniss explained.
“I think it’s definitely more comprehensive, which is a good thing,” Cherniss said in a phone interview last week.
The California Board of Education will now consider absentee rates, suspension rates, graduation rates and college/career readiness when evaluating the performances of individual students and entire schools and their districts.
A chart will be used to compare how the districts fared in the current year compared to the prior year, with a color-coded evaluation assigned accordingly. For example, a high-performing district that shows “increased” performance will be reflected by a green tile, which is the second-best indicator.
In descending order, color indicators are blue, green, yellow, orange and red. These would then help determine which specific schools and entire local education agencies (school districts) were eligible for technical assistance and support.
When viewed in individual categories, a pie chart appropriately filled in and colored would illustrate the status of districts’ individual assessment areas. For example, a chart with 3/5 of its slices filled and colored yellow would reflect an average assessment.
Some of this data would be completed by the state and its assessment methods, while other portions of data — such as levels of parent engagement or surveys of the school’s academic climate — would be provided by the schools themselves.
Starting this year, the annual rankings of school districts are gone.
“That’s a change for our community,” Cherniss said, referring to SMUSD routinely being ranked among the top school districts in the state. “We’re used to having a ranking compared to other districts.”
The new evaluation system will rank districts and schools based on their own performance. Cherniss said he thinks this method will help “level the playing field” for school systems.
“That’s what this really is: Let’s look at multiple measures and let’s not rank districts,” he said.
Information on the changes was presented to the SMUSD board a month ago and the first results are expected to come in at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.
SMUSD Board President Nam Jack also spoke favorably on the new evaluation methods, praising the inclusion of other factors aside from test scores.
“Regardless of how the evaluation is done, the measure of our student success will continue to be the highest in the state,” she said. “In fact, adding additional criteria is a positive for us as it will only serve to show myriad areas in which we excel.”

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