State superintendent to form task force for new accountability plan

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. The state’s superintendent announced today the formation of a new task force to help overhaul California’s accountability system, along with a new plan to guide public schools.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled the Blueprint for Great Schools 2.0, a 20-page document that outlines plans for everything from early education and English learners to funding and teacher preparation.
This is the second blueprint for second-term Torlakson, who released his original plan in 2011 shortly after his first election.
The task force comes at a time when the state’s accountability system is changing.
At the time of the last blueprint, students were still taking the paper-and-pencil California Standards Tests, the basis for the three-digit Academic Performance Index, or API, assigned to every school that is now suspended. This past spring, students took for the first time the Smarter Balanced Assessments, which measures their learning based on Common Core standards. The results are expected next month.
The task force is expected to come up with a recommendation for a new accountability system based on multiple measures, including the new assessments.
Torlakson said he expects to present a plan to the State Board of Education within the next 12 to 14 months. The new plan will be more like a dashboard with measures, such as dropout, graduation and absence rates.
“We’re going away from the era where two test scores were like the obsession of school districts and principals and teachers, just to concentrate on their math and language arts test scores,” Torlakson said. “We want a broader definition of success.”
The blueprint has five focus areas for the next four years: California standards; teaching and leading excellence; student success; continuous improvement and accountability systems; and “systems change and supports for strategic priorities.”
It addresses some of the major changes in education since 2011. At the time, schools were reeling from the budget cuts tied to the recession, when about 30,000 teachers were laid off.
This year’s budget, however, contains record money for education, yet schools are facing an emerging teacher shortage. The blueprint calls for addressing the impending teacher and principal shortage by figuring out the causes and building up the “pipeline” into the profession.
The first blueprint alluded to an idea of a funding system to address students’ needs, which now has turned into the Local Control Funding Formula. Schools now must develop Local Control and Accountability Plans to show how they are using money to improve achievement for students. The blueprint calls for more support and parent involvement as schools develop their plans.
Torlakson said he also wants to emphasize future standards in science and social studies, as well as career preparation.
The co-chairs of the task force are Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association, and Wes Smith, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators. The other members have yet to be named.
Correction: A previous version of this story had the incorrect name of Smith’s association. 
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