SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) - California will no longer rely solely on student test scores as a measure of how well a public school is performing, the latest effort to balance criticism of standardized testing with increased calls for accountability in public education.
The change, approved unanimously on Wednesday by the Board of Education in the most populous U.S. state, coincides with implementation of a system for testing students as part of a switch to new national education standards known as Common Core.
“This will give us a complete picture rather than a narrow view,” California Superintendent of Public Education Tom Torlakson said.
Along with the changes to the school performance measure, known as an Academic Performance Index or API, the Board also voted to suspend its use altogether for a year while the changes are being implemented.
California’s massive education system has been roiled by criticism from competing quarters, with school reformers calling for greater use of student performance measures to evaluate teachers. But educators and many parents complain that school districts rely too heavily on standardized testing to judge academic progress.
Efforts to respond to these sometimes competing concerns are further complicated by the switch to the Common Core standards, which also involves a new type of standardized student test.
California’s powerful teachers union, which backed Torlakson’s bid for re-election last fall, has long opposed efforts to tie teacher pay or performance reviews to student test scores, saying that understanding the effectiveness of teachers and schools is far more complicated.
Last week, Republican lawmakers announced a series of bills aimed at reforming the state’s education system that would dramatically change the way public school teachers are hired, fired and evaluated.
One measure would penalize school districts that do not include pupil progress in teacher job evaluations.
Last year, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge declared unconstitutional several laws meant to protect teachers’ jobs, saying they allowed thousands of grossly ineffective teachers to remain on the job.
It was not immediately clear whether the suspension of API to rate schools would last only one year as currently planned. At the Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, a subcommittee said it did not expect to develop a new accountability plan until at least the fall of 2016.
Editing by Eric Walsh