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California

LAUSD board rejects Yelp-like rating system for schools

Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles.
Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles.
(Mark Ralston / Getty Images)

The Los Angeles school board rejected a proposal to give Yelp-like ratings to its schools, but agreed Tuesday to make data on how students perform year to year on standardized tests more easily available.

The board voted 6-1 against a first-ever proposal to rate schools on a scale of 1 to 5. School board Vice President Jackie Goldberg had fueled the anti-rating momentum after the plan became more widely known in August. It was never supported by the unions representing teachers or administrators.

“Summative approaches hide a lot, that’s why we’ve been disaggregating information,” Goldberg said during the meeting.

In a compromise move, Goldberg, who wrote the resolution to reject the ratings, amended it to make the “growth data” on year-to-year test scores available. The district currently calculates and collects this information, but does not make it accessible online.

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Other board members who voted to reject the numeric ratings said such a system could be a way to drive parents at schools with lower ratings to charter schools, a source of competition for district schools.

“All a number does is allow you, with no information, to compare one school to another,” school board member George McKenna said.

Board member Nick Melvoin, the sole dissenting vote who pushed for the rating system, said third-party websites already are creating “imperfect” rankings that parents rely on.

“This will be another missed opportunity” to both understand what schools need, and to reach parents who are looking for an accurate and clear way to understand their offerings, he said during the meeting.

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It was not clear how long it will take the district to publish schools’ growth scores online.

The data will offer another way of evaluating schools that serve black and Latino students in low-income, high-crime, socially distressed neighborhoods. Such schools almost always have achievement levels below schools that enroll students from more affluent families. A growth measure, however, could give these struggling schools the credit they deserve for making progress, while also serving as a guide to improve ongoing instruction.

California is one of two states that is not measuring student learning growth as part of their accountability systems for elementary and middle schools, according to Data Quality Campaign, a nonprofit policy and advocacy organization.


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