Editor’s note: This week the State Board of Education will vote on the latest iteration of California’s plan to comply with the Every Student Succe Act (ESSA), including if and how the state will choose to identify and improve its lowest-performing schools and provide targeted support to high-need students.
While a disturbingly large number of schools have been chronically under-serving their students for decades, the political establishment prefers to tuck those schools away from view, betting that few will undertake the daunting effort it takes to go searching for them.
They’ve made a good bet.
Few parents have the time, energy or education policy experience to go hunting for the facts on which schools are actually helping all their students learn, which ones are in desperate need of support, and which ones are eking it out for affluent kids but still failing to deliver an equal education to every child.
The endless color-based pie charts make it impossible to compare individual schools, giving bureaucrats all they need to manipulate and obfuscate the data on how schools are actually doing. Last year when many schools were flagged red – the lowest performing category – they just changed the dashboard criteria.
Those still on the hunt for facts about individual schools won’t find any individual school transparency or accountability in the California plan for complying with the federal Every Student Succe Act (ESSA). The law signed by President Obama requires states to demonstrate how they’re identifying and improving their lowest-performing schools and providing targeted support to high-need students.
Twenty-six states have already received ESSA plan approval, but Sacramento continues to resist needed changes to align its plan to President Obama’s goals, including transparency on equity of opportunity and identifying and helping the lowest-performing 5 percent of individual schools.
This played right into the elaborate game of hide-and-seek. The new formula promised more money for the students who need extra support, but where exactly does that money go? Is it reaching the classroom? It’s impossible to know because the state does not track the money to the local neighborhood schools where teachers and students sit in classrooms every day.
Fourth grade is widely considered a benchmark year for gauging whether students are on track to succeed. California fourth-graders are in 48th place in math and reading, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress known as the “Nation’s Report Card.
Despite the sunny optimism for which California is known, and despite elected officials’ progressive fights on immigration and the environment, Sacramento is burying a dark truth: California public schools fail most kids, especially Latino, African American and high-poverty students who rely the most on public schools.