Parents Want School Rating System to Focus on Student Academic Growth

Student academic growth tops the list of parent priorities for a school performance framework, according to a Speak UP survey of 200 parents across LAUSD, which was presented to the LAUSD Board on Tuesday.


Speak UP conducted focus groups and surveyed parents this fall from all types of schools representing the geographic, socioeconomic, racial and needs diversity of the district. The results demonstrated that regardless of the type of school, the geographic location, or the socio-economic makeup of the school, parents want the same things from a school report card.   

A full 73% of parents rated student academic growth as “very important,” more than any other measure of performance. Overall academic performance of students came in a close second, with 69 percent of parents rating it as very important, while principal effectiveness and teacher qualifications came in third and fourth.

“What this tells us is that parents clearly care most about outcomes for their kids,” Tom Creery, a former teacher who now works as a Speak UP parent engagement coordinator, told the Board at public comment. “They want their students to progress and succeed, and they want to know how well a school is delivering on those measures.”

Other important factors for parents are graduation rates and growth for the school’s most vulnerable populations, such as kids with special needs, English language learners and foster youth.

“The parents surveyed demonstrate a clear understanding of the difference between proficiency and growth and realize that many students enter into the public education system with substantial deficits that need to be considered,” Creery said.

Parents also prioritized teacher credentials and how often they were evaluated far above the number of years of service. Parents value measures of quality over measures of seniority by a wide margin, 64 percent to 38 percent.

While parents are most interested in academic performance and growth, they also want to be able to examine school climate, campus safety and parent involvement when looking at schools. Parents want to know whether they will feel welcome at the school and how involved parents are in school governance. 

Speak UP’s survey results were similar to a superintendent’s report on the progress of the performance framework, which also was presented to the Board Tuesday. A working group of 63 parents, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders has been meeting with LAUSD to weigh in on the performance framework over the past couple of months. Speak UP has attended some of those meetings.

Four categories of evaluation interest have emerged from those working group sessions: achievement, social-emotional learning (which includes school climate, parent engagement, suspension and absenteeism rates and safety), equity (serving vulnerable populations well with the same high expectations) and holistic (meaning it creates a rich portrait of schools that includes stakeholder surveys).

LAUSD also proposed providing weights to various factors: 30-40 percent for academic growth, 20-30 percent for achievement (or test scores) and 20-30 percent for school climate in elementary and middle schools. High schools would add a category for college readiness.

LAUSD also presented a draft design of the framework categories, which included five categories of schools from the least to most needy: “exemplar” (for the best in the city) down to “intervene” (performance is low and change is needed). The categories also would be depicted with a star system of one to five stars, and schools identified as needing intervention would be provided extra support to improve, according to Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson.

Board Members Kelly Gonez (BD6) and Nick Melvoin (BD4) praised the focus on growth. “I’m particularly excited about the inclusion of growth and related focus on growth because our schools are growing and making good progress, and we need a performance framework that highlights that work,” Gonez said.

“I agree that the focus on growth, which is absent in the state dashboard, is crucial,” said Melvoin, who added that he also appreciated the proposed action items attached to the ratings so that LAUSD doesn’t just label low-performing schools and walk away without providing the support needed to help them get better.

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