California’s new school rating system, as designed by the State Board of Education, has taken important steps forward for California schools. The new system centers on six state indicators, increases the state’s focus on equity, and includes valuable measures of both academics and a school’s learning environment. However, without some sort of overall quality rating for all schools, this system will remain incomplete, and fail to provide all families, educators, and other stakeholders with the information they need to engage in school improvement efforts. Overall school quality ratings provide several critical benefits - enabling families to navigate their public school options, helping all families find value from the system, recognizing excellence and helping to catalyze improvement efforts, and enabling future policymakers to target programs and funding towards the schools that need them most based on a holistic assessment of school quality. Crucially, an overall school quality rating can be easily added to the state’s existing system by building off the work that has already been completed – it would not override or eliminate any of the progress made by the State Board of Education.
This report outlines several different methods by which this could be accomplished – creating either three or five summative classifications of school quality that could be assigned to every school annually. This summative school quality rating would sit side-by-side on the same page with the full dashboard currently being completed by the State Board of Education so that all families have access to both the comprehensive data dashboard and the guidance provided by a summative rating. Furthermore, by building off the current system and using a small number of broad summative classifications, this particular approach addresses many of the critiques offered against other types of school quality ratings that compare every school against one another or give every school a single number like California’s old Academic Performance Index (API) system. This report includes perspectives from both families and educators on the value of this “third way” approach to evaluating school quality in California.