The struggle over how – and if – California schools will be held accountable for results of a revised school finance formula will be rejoined this week in the state Board of Education.
The board and its president, Michael Kirst, want to kill the state’s test-based Academic Performance Index and replace it with a “multiple measures” system that is much less confrontational.
The state’s education establishment, contending that the old system is too simplistic and punitive, likes the switch.
However, education reform and civil rights groups continue to press for stricter monitoring of how schools are spending the billions of extra dollars they are receiving to upgrade achievements of poor and English-learner students.
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They contend that without stricter accountability, including test results, there is no way to know whether the 3.5 million kids being targeted for extra attention are, in fact, getting it or if the funds are being diverted into other areas, such as salary increases.
“Specifically, the proposed plan blatantly ignores the statutory state priorities relating to academic achievement of students in every California school,” Bill Lucia, president of EdVoice, wrote to the board last week. He referred to the draft plan as “an opaque dysfunctional system … favoring weak unreliable metrics over valid reliable metrics.”
Unless accountability is tightened up, Lucia concluded, it’s likely “the current proposed scheme will drag the state back to the courts.”
Kirst and other supporters of the pending proposal assert that schools would have to answer to local parents and activist groups through Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) that are supposed to reveal how the extra money is being spent.
However, an extensive examination of how LCAPs are being developed by EdSource, a website devoted to California education issues, undercuts that assertion.
EdSource says the documents, which were supposed to be developed with local input and written to make them easy to understand, “have mushroomed in size, in some cases to hundreds of pages long.”
“The burgeoning size … is raising questions about whether after just two years in existence, they are turning into a daunting bureaucratic exercise, taking hundreds of work hours to draw up and many more hours of review by county officials who must approve the plans.
“The length of the documents may also make them hard for parents and other community stakeholders to read and understand, undercutting one of their principal goals, which is for districts to be transparent about their goals and to make districts accountable for meeting them.”
What EdSource describes is not surprising, unfortunately.
Educational bureaucrats are very prone to writing documents in “edu-speak,” a jargon for insiders. The “multiple measures” plan now being drafted is a monument to such deliberate obfuscation.
It’s a recipe for schools to spend the money any way they wish without fear of being held responsible for outcomes.