Goldberg Seeks to Abort School Rating System, Denying Parents Access to Student Growth Data

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LAUSD Board Vice President Jackie Goldberg (BD5) introduced a resolution Tuesday to “suspend implementation” of the new school rating system that parents and other stakeholders helped develop for more than a year. LAUSD was in the final stages of testing the system and had planned to roll it out in October, in time for the eChoices application deadline.

In April of last year, the LAUSD Board voted 6-1 to direct the district to create a School Performance Framework to help identify schools needing support and to help parents evaluate how their schools are doing and make the best choices for their kids.

The system was to rely heavily on student growth data, and each school would receive a single summative rating.

Goldberg’s resolution, which will likely be up for a vote in October, directs LAUSD to “suspend implementation of the SPF and any launching or utilization of the SPF—including any use of stars, scores, or any other rating system—in or on any District platforms.”

Its passage would deprive parents of vital data on student growth and school performance.

Giving parents this information “can shame, penalize, or stigmatize schools, education professionals, students, and entire communities,” as well as “promote unhealthy competition between schools,” Goldberg’s resolution contends.

The SPF was designed to give parents a better way to evaluate their schools than the California State Dashboard, an inscrutable system that does not look at student growth and which parents rarely use because it’s so complex. Instead, parents rely heavily on Greatschools.org, an outside school rating system that does not take student growth data into account.

Rather than evaluating schools based on raw test scores, growth data is a way to highlight schools helping low-income kids and other vulnerable populations improve academically, despite the fact that they may start out behind their more affluent peers. If schools helped those kids improve, their rating would reflect a job well done, even if overall test scores remain lower than at schools in affluent areas.

In a blow to transparency, Goldberg’s resolution would explicitly hide LAUSD’s student growth data from parents and the public and instead direct them back to the California State Dashboard.  

Parents who spent a year attending working group meetings with teachers, principals, district officials, community groups and other stakeholders, were upset that Goldberg was attempting to scrap the system at the 11th hour.

"What a waste of time,” said Roxann Nazario, parent who traveled from Pacoima multiple times to give feedback on the SPF. “It's abrupt reversals like this that make parents and the public lose trust in the district, a big reason why Measure EE failed. I could really use the SPF to help me choose a high school for my daughter in a couple years. I hope the board respects parents and values transparency enough to vote no and show us the data." 

Nazario noted that the suspension of API scores was supposed to be temporary, too, but API scores never returned, as promised, after the two-year hiatus.

Goldberg’s resolution will be heard in the new Curriculum and Instruction committee, scheduled to meet for the fist time Sept. 10, before coming to the board for a vote. That committee is chaired by Board Member George McKenna (BD1), the lone board member to vote against the creation of a school rating system after removing his name as a co-sponsor.

Board Member Nick Melvoin (BD4), who co-sponsored last year’s resolution creating the SPF with Board Member Kelly Gonez (BD6), said that he would “fight vigorously” any “efforts to kill it or not acknowledge growth, which is the big distinguishing factor from the California State Dashboard.”

While several board members would have to reverse their prior votes to scrap the SPF, Melvoin acknowledged “the political landscape has shifted,” since the January strike and Goldberg’s election, which increased the power of adult employee special interest groups that typically oppose any accountability measures for schools.

Goldberg Signs Onto Scaled-Back Resolution To Ease Co-Lo Tensions

Nevertheless, Goldberg and Melvoin have joined forces on another resolution originally slated for a vote Tuesday but bumped to the Sept. 24 charter meeting instead. Goldberg has signed on as a co-sponsor of a scaled-back version of Melvoin’s resolution to reduce tensions and foster cooperation between district and charter schools sharing campuses.

“We can disagree on one issue like SPF and still try to work together on another issue like co-location,” Melvoin said. 

Melvoin’s original resolution, introduced in July, would have taken the money that charter schools pay LAUSD when they co-locate on an LAUSD campus and given it directly to the home schools sharing space. Each LAUSD school with a co-location would have received about $120,000 to use however they wanted.

The scaled-back version supported by Goldberg is a one-year pilot program, which would require co-located charter and district schools to jointly apply for funding to support projects or programs designed to improve the lives and learning conditions for students in all schools sharing the campus.

“Jackie and I saw a similar problem here and teamed together and compromised on ways to solve it that were fiscally responsible and a little more time-bound,” Melvoin said.

Initial funding for the program would include $2 million in bond funding currently available for charter school facilities. Melvoin’s original resolution would have given $8-9 million to district schools with co-locations, paid from the general fund.

“Initially, I thought it would be used to hire another teacher,” Melvoin said. “With bond dollars, it has to be used for facilities – things that make the schools operate more collaboratively, like a single buzzer entry system or an automated gate. Let’s say there’s a charter school where every time a parent comes, they have to call the home school to open the gate. Well, that’s annoying and makes the school resent it. If you have an automated entry system that both schools have access to, you just solved a problem.”

Schools can also use the funding for shared technology or to create parity so the home school gets new furniture when a charter arrives. This would reduce the sense that “there are winners and losers” when a charter co-locates, Melvoin said.

UTLA’s Facebook live video of a co-location protest echoes “invasion” language of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

UTLA’s Facebook live video of a co-location protest echoes “invasion” language of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

While some co-location tensions are inevitable, Melvoin believes that adults sometimes exacerbate or even deliberately stoke conflict between district schools and co-locating charters in order to fuel “anti-charter sentiment.”

Melvoin criticized UTLA’s rhetoric around co-locations, which often mimics President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. The union recently live-streamed one such co-location protest, calling it an “invasion” and accusing kids at charter schools of stealing resources from kids at the district school.

“I had a mother come to talk to me a few weeks after the strike whose son [at a charter school] heard Trump-like rhetoric about ‘Go home,’” Melvoin said. “As he walked into his co-located school, he had protestors yelling ‘You don’t belong here.’ That’s horrifying.”

On the flip side, “There are people that feel, ‘My son had an art room, and you’ve come and taken my art room,’” Melvoin said.

Both the district and charter schools need to work harder to dial down tensions and present solutions. There’s been “a lack of transparency on the district’s part, last-minute space allocation, sometimes a lack of transparency on the charter’s part, not telling us how many kids will be on each campus so sometimes you have way too many kids on a campus,” Melvoin said.

Melvoin praised Goldberg’s “willingness to work on this and her suggestions around how we get both schools to work together and not create haves and have nots…How do we make this work for all parties?”

— This story was updated after Tuesday’s board meeting.