State Board takes deep dive into assessments and the Dashboard

Accountability and assessments were key topics of the State Board of Education’s Sept. 14–15 meeting, which Board President Linda Darling-Hammond opened by applauding educators and district leaders for successfully reopening for a new school year amid significant change.

Months of planning go into successful fall openings, she said, but this year took more preparation with officials working on universal meals, expanded after-school and learning recovery programs, later school start times, expanded transitional kindergarten, community school planning and more.

“All children must have the opportunity to access learning and free meals, mental health supports, medical attention, social-emotional and wellness programs — all of these services set the stage for academic improvements,” Darling-Hammond said. “Expanded tutoring along with literacy and math supports take advantage of that readiness. All of these are investments in learning.”


Following robust discussion, the board approved proposed threshold scores for the California Alternate Assessment (CAA) for Science, as well as continued use of the adjusted form blueprints for the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments for English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics, and the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) and English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) Student Score Reports (SSRs) for 2022–23.

The 2020–21 administration of the CAA for Science — taken by students with the most significant cognitive disabilities — was intended to be the first operational field test; however, California Department of Education staff noted the number of students who completed testing was insufficient to reflect a “typical” instructional year. Therefore, the finalization of the threshold scores was postponed until more robust impact data from the 2021–22 CAA for Science could be used. Additional information on the threshold scores is available here.

After a tumultuous couple of years for testing that saw the board approve revisions to the 2021–22 CAASPP SSRs to account for a lack of testing at the height of the pandemic — including the removal of school and state averages and revisions to the language regarding claim results on the SSRs — the board is continuing to make adjustments.

With a significantly larger percentage of students participating in the CAASPP in 2021–22, CDE staff said a comparison between 2021–22 and 2022–23 performance should offer suitable and valid insight into student progress and performance. In response, the board moved to add comparison language back to the design specifications for the SSRs for the Smarter Balanced Summative Assessments. Additionally, the board approved the removal of individual student claim information from the 2022–23 administration to make the SSRs easier to navigate for families. Further details can be found here.

Finally, the board approved the continued use of adjusted blueprints for the Smarter Balanced assessments in ELA and math until the Smarter Balanced Consortium proposes changes to these blueprints. Originally adopted when the U.S. Department of Education provided assessment flexibilities during the COVID-19 upheaval of education, the shortened blueprints reduce the amount of time students spend on the assessments, allowing for increased instructional time and flexibility in scheduling, as well as minimizing the risk of connectivity or network issues.

However, the adjusted form blueprints do not support the reporting of individual student claim results and target reports, although the specifics are under discussion by the Consortium and its technical advisory committee for implementation in the 2023–24 year. Additional details about the shortened blueprints are available here.

The proposal to continue use of adjusted blueprints split the board, with several members applauding the benefits (for instance, reduced testing time means more time for instruction), while others expressed concern surrounding the unknowns of their continued use.

“I’m very sympathetic to the rational around wanting to have less testing time — especially on the heels of so many school closures and lost instructional time … Thinking of it as a pandemic measure in many ways made a lot of sense,” said board member Kim Pattillo Brownson. “Hearing that there’s an effort to still understand the efficacy of using the shorter form blueprints and also realizing how much we have compacted information that’s available to families gives me a lot of pause about having this recommendation be … a continued use until a date uncertain. At a moment when many families are trying to figure out how to help accelerate learning for their children, and how to move past the pandemic, I think families need more information, not less.”

In response to these concerns, Darling-Hammond noted that work to improve the shortened blueprints remains underway, and that, should the board adopt their continued use now, it could reverse course in the future.

“Assessment is always in flux,” she said. “So, if we want to dive more deeply in coming meetings into the data that’s coming out about the adjusted blueprint and how to think about future decisions, we will be able to. Nothing in here will bind us for life, it will be something that is under continued study.”

Dashboard updates

The CDE will continue to report modified methods for accountability as well as non-modified methods on the California School Dashboard in response to recent action taken by the U.S. Department of Education related to California’s Dashboard Alternative School Status (DASS).

In January, the Department of Education denied the amendments to California’s Every Student Succeeds Act State Plan, which sought to bring the DASS modified methods into compliance with ESSA requirements while ensuring DASS schools were evaluated fairly and held accountable for student achievement.

Alternative schools typically have lower graduation rates than traditional campuses and rank lower on accountability measures than more conventional schools. These schools typically serve students who have not been successful in regular schools, often because of behavior, disciplinary or other concerns. They also include juvenile court schools and special education schools.

In March, the SBE approved the submission of a waiver to the department requesting the continued use for DASS schools to maintain the DASS modified methods for calculating the Academic and Graduation Rate Indicators. The waiver request was submitted on April 15 and declined by the Education Department on July 27.

CDE staff reported there is limited time to pursue additional options for the 2022 Dashboard and identification of schools as required under ESSA and requested from the board short-term next steps to meet the requirement for school identifications based on the 2022 Dashboard and long-term steps for future dashboards.

Short-term options approved by the board included:

  • Labeling DASS schools that meet requirements for ESSA Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) eligibility or low performance as a DASS Community of Practice to distinguish the uniqueness of these schools and the students served.
  • Developing differentiated improvement activities for schools that predominantly serve students returning to education after having exited secondary school without a regular high school diploma or who, based on their grade or age, are significantly off track to accumulate sufficient academic credits to meet high school graduation requirements.

Long-term options for consideration included:

  • Modifying all measures permitted under ESSA to exclude students with partial attendance (ESSA does not permit the use of this option for the Graduation Rate Indicator).
  • Incorporating an extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rate by adding a sixth- and seventh-year graduation rate to give credit to schools in which students are receiving a regular high school diploma beyond the current four- and five-year combined graduation rate.

CDE staff emphasized that any schools identified in the 2022 Dashboard will need to meet the specified exit criteria approved in the COVID-19 Addendum for this year, which allowed the CDE to revise the state’s long-term goals and interim progress by shifting the timeline forward by two years for measurements of interim progress; exclude the College/Career Indicator from the state’s accountability system for the 2021–22 school year; shift forward timelines by one year for identifying schools; and revise the entrance and exit criteria for schools identified for support.

Several other minor changes to the Dashboard were approved, including using the lowest status level as a proxy for “Red” to determine local educational agencies eligible for differentiated assistance.

CDE staff noted that with the return of the Dashboard following a two-year pause, the state is committed to once again reviewing and revising Dashboard indicators and performance standards when appropriate, especially given the challenges faced by districts during the pandemic.

The item also consisted of updates on a differentiated assistance eligibility and an English learner student group academic indicator, which will be further discussed during the board’s November meeting.

In other State Board meeting news:

  • New board members were sworn in: Alison Yoshimoto-Towery, executive director of the UC/CSU California Collaborative for Neurodiversity and Learning and former Los Angeles Unified School District chief academic officer, and Naomi Porter, a Palos Verdes Peninsula USD high school senior.
  • Amendments to California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 3043 were adopted to clarify that LEAs should consider the least restrictive environment in making determinations related to the extended school year program. LEAs are obligated to provide these services for each student with exceptional needs who requires special education and related services in excess of the regular academic year.
  • The board received several program updates, including one on a new professional learning series to support educators in building trust with families and effectively communicating about student data. This four-module series — Effective School-Home Partnerships — is available now through the Smarter Balanced Tools for Teachers website.
  • The board reapproved the Finding of Emergency and proposed emergency regulations/amendments to the California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR), Section 1040, related to the California Physical Fitness Test (PFT). The passage of Senate Bill 820 in 2020 requires the CDE to consult with partners with expertise in fitness, adapted physical education, gender identity, body image and students with disabilities in order to recommend improvements to the PFT and its administration. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction must submit a report with these recommendations to the appropriate fiscal and policy committees of the Legislature, the Department of Finance and the SBE by Nov. 1.

The next State Board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2–3, 2022. View the full meeting calendar.