Nearly a dozen parents raised their voices at an LAUSD board committee meeting Tuesday in an attempt to save the School Performance Framework and give parents access to vital data showing how well L.A. schools are helping vulnerable students grow academically in a given year.
A committee chaired by Board Member George McKenna (BD1), however, voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend a resolution from Board Vice President Jackie Goldberg (BD5) to suspend implementation of the school rating system on the eve of its launch.
The full board is expected to pass some version of Goldberg’s resolution on Nov. 5, reversing course and discarding more than a year’s worth of work undertaken by the district and stakeholders after a 6-1 vote last April to create a rating system to evaluate school performance.
The only parent member of the committee, Reggie Green from Augustus Hawkins High in South L.A., was the lone dissenting voice on the dais Tuesday. “I think as a parent, if we don’t measure where we are, how do we know where we need to go?” he asked. “I think it just breeds complacency if we don’t have some type of measurement so we know what we need to strive for. I would like to see a number.”
Parents testifying before the board, including many Speak UP members, also expressed frustration over the wasted time and effort spent at nine separate stakeholder meetings to help refine the system, which LAUSD had promised to launch this month in time for the eChoices deadline.
“I have spent the last year and a half working on this with LAUSD because I believe we as parents deserve to know how students are progressing in our schools, in order to decide the best schools for our children and to help our current schools improve,” said Speak UP’s Raquel Toscano, a parent at MaCES magnet in District 5. “This lack of transparency is exactly what caused measure EE to lose.”
The School Performance Framework was designed to improve upon the California State Dashboard, which does not give a single rating to help parents easily compare different schools. Unfiltered data can be confusing for parents, Green said.
“Every parent, we don’t know what all the data means like an instructor would,” he said. “If you see an overall number, that will help guide you. I think there should be some kind of score with all the data broken down for us to understand. I’d like to see it all. You should be able to find the information.”
While student growth data were a key component of the new school rating system, it remains unclear whether amendments made to the resolution would give the green light to the district to release that data, which is currently not available on the California State Dashboard.
Growth data show how a single group of students compares to students of similar demographics in terms of academic improvement in a given year. It can present a more fair and accurate picture of school performance by highlighting schools that are helping vulnerable kids catch up at a rapid clip, even if the students start out far behind state standards.
Board Member Kelly Gonez (BD6), who co-sponsored the School Performance Framework last year, backed away from her prior support for a single summative school rating that parents can easily understand. But she pushed for the release of key data components of the framework that are not on the California State Dashboard, including student growth, English Learner reclassification rates and parent satisfaction survey results that can give a more holistic picture.
Board Member Scott Schmerelson (BD3) also reversed his prior vote for the School Performance Framework, and Board Member Richard Vladovic (BD7) told EdSource that he will do so, as well, giving the Board enough votes to prevent the school ratings system from getting off the ground.
Superintendent Austin Beutner, however, told Speak UP that he wants to release the individual data components included in the School Performance Framework. With multiple versions of Goldberg’s resolution appearing over the past two weeks, some adding and some removing clauses related to student growth, it’s unclear whether the board will endorse that data release in November.
Speak UP has filed a Public Records Act request calling on LAUSD to release the student growth data that it compiled and analyzed while testing a model of its School Performance Framework. LAUSD has not yet responded to that public information request.
Eleven education organizations also sent a joint letter calling on LAUSD to release that student growth data right away, including Parent Revolution, United Way, Teach Plus, Education Leaders of Color, Families in Schools, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, Alliance for a Better Community, Innovate Public Schools, Students for Education Reform, Great Public Schools Now and Speak UP.
“California is one of only two states in the country (the other is Kansas) that does not measure and publicize student growth,” the letter said. “Currently, families are overwhelmingly using SBAC [test] proficiency rates, whether they are looking at GreatSchools, the CA Dashboard, or LAUSD’s own school-finder tool. The school with the highest proficiency rate may not be the best school for an individual child. In our work with families, we frequently hear that parents want to find the schools that will help their children catch up if they have fallen behind. Without a student growth measure, families have no access to this most important question and cannot make the best choice for their children.”
District staff said at Tuesday’s meeting that identifying high-growth schools to share best practices and help other schools improve was one of the main goals of the School Performance Framework, alongside giving parents better information to choose the best schools for their kids.
During the meeting, McKenna opposed a single summative school rating but indicated a desire for LAUSD to analyze student growth data in order to determine what schools with high growth are doing right. “The more we know, I think the better off we are,” McKenna said. “It is better to have more than you need than to need more than you have.”
The fate of that data will likely be decided at the next board meeting in November, less than two weeks before the eChoices deadline closes. The trust of LAUSD parents hangs in the balance.
“If you continue to deny access to this valuable information you have in hand – and we know you have it -- children like mine will continue to suffer the consequences and waste valuable years in schools that are unable to provide adequate supports,” said Norma Santiago, whose son with special needs suffered emotional damage at prior schools he attended. “How much longer do we have to choose schools blindly? We’re talking about our children.”