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Moving beyond a single measure of a school (includes Michael Kirst, David Plank, and Linda Darling-Hammond)

March 1, 2015
In this thorough article on the history and future of grading student and school performance, GSE faculty members Michael Kirst, David Plank and Linda Darling-Hammond comment on how California got to it's present state of school testing and what the future of school accountability might look like.
John Fensterwald

The State Board of Education is seizing the chance to redefine student achievement and reframe how schools are held accountable for performance. It is in the throes of replacing the Academic Performance Index, the three-digit number that has been California’s narrow gauge of school progress for a decade and a half. The question is, what will take its place?

Fully rolling out a new accountability system is projected to take three years – there is no legislated deadline. But state board members and others who have shared their thoughts have expressed similar concepts of what it might – and should not – be.

There is near-universal agreement among educators and policy makers that a new system should be distinctly different from the API, which is calculated by weighting school and district scores on various subject assessments. Instead of a single number with consequences tied to end-of-year standardized tests, there should be multidimensional measures reflecting the complexities of school life and performance, including potentially hard-to-quantify indicators of school climate, as well as test scores and indicators of success in preparing students for college and career options. State board President Michael Kirst uses the analogy of gauges on a car dashboard that display oil pressure, temperature, battery capacity and mileage, each measuring different components of a car’s performance. . . .

David Plank, executive director of the independent research organization Policy Analysis for California Education, [underscored] the magnitude of the potential changes.

“California has embarked on something radical,” he said. “The state is moving dramatically from top-down standardized accountability to something with a much smaller state role and a much smaller role for test scores. After having spent the last 20 years getting folks to sing from the same hymnal, we’re now saying, ‘Do what is best for your district and community.’”

In January, Plank and Stanford Graduate School of Education professor Linda Darling-Hammond published a policy paper, “Supporting Continuous Improvement in California’s Education System,” that laid out the principles for a new accountability system built around the goals of giving districts the flexibility and teachers the resources to create an environment that fosters continuous improvement. Kirst praises the report for providing a framework for what the system might look like while acknowledging it could end up looking quite different.

Read the full story in EdSource.

Read Linda Darling-Hammond and David Plank's paper: "Supporting Continuous Improvement in California's Education System."

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