On the last day of January 2019, with little fanfare and drowned out by the impending strikes over unacceptably low teacher pay, the California Department of Education published a list of schools that are eligible for additional support and funds from the state. It’s also the list of the lowest 5% of public schools in California as determined by the CA School Dashboard.

 

Thinking about quality
Oakland is over-represented on this list. Not surprisingly, I’ve received quite a few questions about the 5% list, especially as parents just last week had to confirm their enrollment choices for next year. The need for more quality schools is on everyone’s mind, so I’m here today to try to demystify and share some context.

Why publish this list at all?
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the latest reauthorization of federal K-12 education policy signed into law by former President Obama, requires that each state create clear criteria for identifying the lowest performing 5% of schools so that resources and efforts can best be deployed for improving student outcomes. After receiving feedback from US Department of Education during the ESSA state plan approval process, California chose to align the identification criteria around the CA School Dashboard, its current multi-measure accountability system for K-12 schools, inclusive of alternative schools starting Fall 2018.

CA School Dashboard Resources
Before we go too deep, let me share some resources on the CA School Dashboard. Check out the links for more useful information:

 

What are the criteria?
In California, the lowest 5% of schools are eligible for comprehensive support and improvement (CSI). If a school meets any of the following criteria on the CA School Dashboard, it will be identified as a CSI school: ·

  • Grad rates <67% over two years average (HS only) (example)
  • All red indicators on CA School Dashboard (example)
  • All red and orange indicators on CA School Dashboard (example)
  • All red except for one indicator of any other color (example)
  • Majority red indicators if they have 5+ indicators (think 6-12 schools) (example)

Identification for CSI is based on “All Students” group for both traditional and alternative schools and occurs once every three years. When the CA School Dashboard is updated each fall, a school can “exit” the list if they no longer meet the specific criteria they were flagged for. For example, if School X (grades 6-12) was flagged for low graduation rates but has a high graduation rate average over the next two years, they would no longer be flagged. They can be re-flagged in the future for other reasons, like having majority red indicators or if their graduation rates decrease again.

 

How’s Oakland looking?
So…which of Oakland’s schools are on the list? Here is a table ordered alphabetically:

Source: EdSource Database: California’s lowest-performing schools in 2018-19

 

Some quick analysis:

  • While the criteria are meant to yield a target of 5% of schools in California, Oakland is overrepresented on the list with 21% of its schools listed. (28 out of the possible 131 public schools. This includes both district-run + charter and alternative + traditional)
    • 24% of Oakland district-run schools were listed (21 schools)
    • 17% of Oakland charter schools were listed (7 schools)
  • Of the 781 total schools identified across the state, 4% of the schools are in Oakland.
  • 25% of the Oakland schools listed are non-traditional schools (e.g., continuation or alternative), which is similar to the percent of non-traditional schools listed statewide (29%).
  • About 2/3 of the listed Oakland schools were flagged for low performance and 1/3 were flagged for low graduation rates – also similar percentages to the statewide list.

 

Some grains of salt
Similar to the state’s roll-out of the chronic absence data for the first time in 2016-17, there’s going to be hiccups and imperfections whenever data is rolled out initially for a new metric.

  • Automatic Assignment of Orange. Schools that do not report their data are automatically assigned Orange in chronic absenteeism and suspension rate indicators. For example, we wouldn’t know whether School X truly ranks an Orange on suspension, or if they are Orange because the CDE did not receive their suspension data.
  • Data Errors. One local example of data error is Lighthouse High School. In 2017 they had a 75% cohort graduation, helping to flag their 0% graduation rate in 2018 as an error. Nevertheless, they’re on the list.

 

So what’s next? Time to focus on quality.
There are different levels of support based on how a school is doing (from highest level of support to lowest):

  • CSI = Comprehensive Support and Improvement (aka Lowest 5%. These are the schools who met the criteria above)
    • ‘CSI Low Perform’ = Flagged because they met one of the non-grad low performance criteria (e.g., all red on indicators)
    • ‘CSI Grad’ = Flagged because of low grad rates
  • ATSI = Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (when 1+ subgroup doesn’t improve and they’re a TSI school. I’m still not 100% clear on how this differs from TSI – if any readers know, please share with me at cchan@educate78.org!)
  • TSI = Targeted Support and Improvement (when 1+ subgroup doesn’t improve for 2+ years on same criteria), also referred to as General Assistance

Schools who qualify for CSI can submit improvement plans to California Department of Education to access state funds to support their improvement process. First disbursements recently went out to those with approved plans. As additional layer of support, county offices of education received extra funds to help support impacted LEAs with CSI schools (another way the Alameda County Office of Education is increasing its support to Oakland).

Locally, there are a lot of conversations, in offices and around dinner tables, about school closures and consolidations. (Data nerd here: I’ve been crunching historical closure data, and it’s a messy + sensitive topic. Curious if y’all are interested in seeing it?)

Instead, I hope this list along with other data can help drive more conversations around school quality. I’m more optimistic than ever we can get there, because this is the vision I consistently hear from OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. Also, with federal backing through ESSA, the state defining criteria for the list, and the county looking at differentiated support for these schools, we should all be able to align around a clear and fair definition of quality and invest in our schools to achieve it.

 

Additional links and data resources: