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Some Calif. School Ratings Would Hinge on Climate, Discipline

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In the nine California districts seeking a first-of-its-kind waiver under the No Child Left Behind Act, 40 percent of a school's rating would be based on social and emotional factors and school climate, according to a newly revised plan the districts are hoping will pass muster with the U.S. Department of Education.

My colleague Michele McNeil gets into more details on what else the school ratings would include over at the Politics K-12 blog, but for readers here, I thought these components would be of particular interest.

Nine California school districts requested a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act that would create a dramatically different school accountability system from the rest of the state. The districts—known as the California Office to Reform Education, or CORE—encompass more than a million students and include Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. California failed to get NCLB flexibility in a late 2012 attempt.

As Michele writes, based on the notes federal officials sent back to the CORE districts, outside peer reviewers who helped the federal Education Department vet the application were most concerned about a lack of detail. For example, the peer reviewers wanted more information about subgroup accountability, how new annual measurable objectives (AMOs) would be set, how "reward" schools would be rewarded, and how teachers will be involved in the crafting of new evaluation systems. (The summary of the peer reviewers' concerns is five pages long.)

The districts reworked their school rating system as part of their response to those questions.

It says that 60 percent of a school's rating would be based on test scores, graduation rates, and other academic criteria, 20 percent on social and emotional factors such as discipline rates; and the remaining 20 percent on cultural aspects of schools, such as climate surveys and special education identification rates. The districts dropped plans to count only the test scores from the last grade in each school for accountability purposes.

"We are ready to be held to a much higher standard," said Richard Carranza, the San Francisco schools superintendent, in a conference call Tuesday with reporters.

The CORE districts expect to have to make even more changes before they win approval, said CORE Executive Director Rick Miller, but really need to have an answer by July 1. After that, districts need to start signing agreements with outside tutoring companies that provide services under the existing NCLB law to students in failing schools.

It's important to note that from now on the negotiations over this waiver are between the CORE districts and the feds; the outside peer-review process is now over.

Follow Rules for Engagement on Twitter @Rulz4Engagement and Education Week Staff Writer Nirvi Shah on Twitter @NirviShah.

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