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California Will Give A Short Version of Its Standardized Math and English Tests Next Spring

It’s actually identical to the short version that the board approved for spring of 2021, when most districts were still in distance learning.

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Young male writing on notebook at a desk, Photo courtesy of Santi Vedri

The “Smarter Balanced” standardized tests in math and English language arts that California students will take in the spring to measure their academic progress will have fewer questions and take less time than the pre-COVID-19 versions. But the test results to parents won’t provide as much information as in the past.

On September 9, the State Board of Education approved the shorter test that the California Department of Education recommended. The shorter version will give districts more flexibility in scheduling the tests, free up time for more instruction and reduce the potential for internet glitches with the fully online test, the department argued in making its case.

It’s actually identical to the short version that the board approved for spring of 2021, when most districts were still in distance learning.

At that time, given the option of administering Smarter Balanced or their own local assessment, many, if not most, chose a test other than Smarter Balanced last spring. It’s hard to know, however, because the state didn’t require that districts report their choices or the scores.

But the Smarter Balanced tests will be mandatory in spring 2022. The department says the short version of the combined math and English language arts tests will take 4½  hours for grades 3 to 5, 90 minutes less than before; 4 hours, 45 minutes for grades 6 to 8, 75 minutes shorter; and 5 ½ hours for 11th grade, 2 hours shorter.

Performance tasks — the longer problem-solving and research exercises on the test — will remain intact, while the multiple-choice questions will be cut in half.

Scores will be just as accurate, since the proportion of questions will be equally reduced in all areas of the tests, said Mao Vang, director of the department’s Assessment Development and Administration Division. And parents will receive their students’ scores along with their ranking — whether the scores were far below standard, below standard, at standard or above.

What parents won’t get is their child’s scores on components of the test: reading, writing, listening, and research and inquiry for English language arts; and concepts/procedures, problem solving, communicating reasoning and data analysis for math — at least next year.

This lack of detail is why a number of civil rights and groups advocating for low-income students opposed the short form.

“Losing key summative data makes it more difficult to gauge performance on key standards, and more difficult to tackle equity of opportunity and identify achievement gaps” across ethnic and racial groups, testified Lexi Lopez, communications manager for the advocacy group EdVoice. “During these times, schools should be providing parents with more information about student performance — not less.”

The Local Control Funding Formula Equity Coalition, representing a dozen statewide organizations, argued that a shorter test could actually result in more total testing time, because districts “may end up backfilling” information not provided by Smarter Balanced by administering additional local assessments.

Board President Linda Darling-Hammond

But districts should be using more “interim” tests and short or “formative” assessments throughout the year that “allow educators to drill down and see how students are doing within particular content and topic areas,” said board President Linda Darling-Hammond. That’s what the state should be encouraging, said Darling-Hammond, an emeritus professor in education at Stanford University.

Seven of the 12 states that use the Smarter Balanced tests used the shorter form last year, and many will probably do so again this year, said Tony Alpert, the executive director of Smarter Balanced.

The department staff didn’t say whether they’d recommend continuing with the short form in future years, although they indicated that might be the case. But they said that use of the short form in the spring would not interfere with plans by 2024 to add a “growth model” as a way to measure student test scores.

A growth model is a technically complex but useful method that all but a few states use to measure the progress over time of individual students’ test scores. The state board adopted it in May, five years after the idea was first raised.

Darling-Hammond and other board members said that it’s possible that the pandemic may create challenges for months and that a shorter version would provide more flexibility to administer the test. Reflecting first-hand views of a teacher and a student, board members Haydee Rodriguez and Rana Banankhah also said to use the short form.

“I want to echo what’s already been said. I’ll just say that with my experience as a classroom teacher, I’m in support of this recommendation,” said Rodriguez, a bilingual and bicultural high school teacher at Central Union High School, near the Mexican border.

“I found that this shortened test was absolutely beneficial to my class, especially those connecting from home who had trouble with tech issues, which definitely slowed them down. And I was one of those students,” said Banankhah, a senior at Modesto High. “Students with internet issues are probably going to be disproportionally socioeconomically disadvantaged and rural students. This recommendation would definitely improve equity among students.”

Smarter Balanced scores next spring will be publicly reported and applied to the California School Dashboard in 2022 for the first time in three years. The rating system measures improvement or lack of progress in schools and districts using multiple indicators. However, the dashboard’s color rating system ratings won’t reappear until 2023.

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Education

School Advocate Finds Oakland Schools Lost Money by Closing Roots, Kaiser and Other Schools

OUSD claims but shows no proof that closing more schools would save $2 million.

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Students, teachers and parents at Roots Academy protest at School Board meetings in January 2019, opposing district decision to close their school. Photo courtesy of Oakland North.

A community education advocate has written a public letter using district data to show that the Oakland school district did not save money but instead lost over $700,000 when it closed two well-loved elementary schools.

Carol Delton, a community education advocate who has dedicated a lot of her time to keeping track of Oakland school district’s finances, has raised disturbing questions about the lack of transparency, accountability and seemingly inaccurate budget numbers that the district and its hands-on overseers at the Alameda County Office of Education, the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT) and the State Department of Finance are using to force the district to close schools and gut school site educational programs.

Delton, a retired school-based speech pathologist and Oakland resident, wrote an open letter October 17 to the OUSD school board and superintendent, questioning a proposal to cut $2 million from next year’s school budget to make up for savings that would be supposedly lost if the district does not go ahead with a plan to close more schools in 2022-2023.

Countering that proposal, Delton found that the district’s own documents show that the district has lost money when it closes schools. One document, released last May, showed that changes in facilities when (Cohort 1 and Cohort 2) schools were closed, the net costs to the district, including facilities costs, were $700,896.33.

In addition, the district lost state revenue when students left the school district amid the closures and mergers. According to one report, the closures meant that the district lost 9% or 14 students from Roots Academy, 17% or 37 students from Kaiser Elementary and 15% or 14 students from Oakland SOL.

“Without counting the loss of siblings to OUSD enrollment and without counting other students whose loss from the district may not have been presented, students leaving the district from just those three schools approaches a million-dollar loss … funding that has not been factored in,” wrote Delton in her open letter.

“As a result, it is difficult for me to believe that any plan of closures and mergers could result in a $2 million savings,” Delton wrote.

Looking at the pattern of nearly 20 years of school closings forced on the district by its overseers, Delton wrote, “It was clear that in years when OUSD closed schools, the district lost enrollment and in years when OUSD did not close schools, enrollment was up.”

Further, she said she saw that the district presented rosy projections that were not realized when it decided to close these schools. For example, looking at the projection prior to the Kaiser closure, “you will … see under-projections of enrollment loss.”

“Please consider that the enrollment loss pattern for this year that seems to be emerging would be 400% worse if it followed the percentages of district enrollment loss occasioned by recent closure/mergers.”

Delton also looked at the lack of transparency of these financial decisions, which makes it difficult for her and other members of the public to look at what the district is doing with public money.

“I am deeply concerned about the proposal to cut $2 million from the 2022-23 budget … has had ZERO public exposure and ZERO committee discussion before it comes to the board for a vote,” she wrote.

“While it was announced as Item G-1 of the 10/14/2021 Budget and Finance Committee Meeting, no documents were ever posted and, at the meeting, the Committee Chair announced the discussion would not take place and that she was receiving messages about running over time.” Delton wrote.

The Post requested the district respond to the issues raised by Delton in her letter. Here is the response the Post received on Wednesday, October 20:

“Rather than consolidating schools, the Board of Education has elected to cut $2 million in ongoing expenditures from the 2022-23 budget. On Oct. 27, the Board will decide how to make those reductions,” the district wrote.

“The Board and Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell and her team have been transparent about the financial issues that face the district. We appreciate input from all stakeholders including students, staff, families, and members of the community.”

Community members who would like to follow the OUSD Board discussion can attend the meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in person or on Zoom. Delton’s letter is available online at www.postnewsgroup.com

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

Carol Delton Letter to Oakland School Board and Superintendent

While it was announced as Item G-1 of the 10/14/2021 Budget and Finance Committee Meeting, no documents were ever posted and, at the meeting, the Committee Chair announced the discussion would not take place and that she was receiving messages about running over time.

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Dear Board Directors and Superintendent,

I am deeply concerned about the proposal to cut $2 million from the 2022-23 budget in supposed lieu of another Blueprint Cohort, and even more deeply concerned about the process that has had ZERO public exposure and ZERO committee discussion before it comes to the Board for a vote.

While it was announced as Item G-1 of the 10/14/2021 Budget and Finance Committee Meeting, no documents were ever posted and, at the meeting, the Committee Chair announced the discussion would not take place and that she was receiving messages about running over time.

I will first address the $2 million figure, why I question it, and why you should, too. During the 5/12/2021 Board meeting, staff provided an update, including financial analysis, of the Cohort 1 and 2 school changes.

Attachment 2-Financial Impact Summary to Resolution 2021-0128 showed that when facilities costs were taken into consideration, the changes actually cost the district an aggregate $700, 896.33– without the facilities changes, the reduction in expenditures would have been $619,454.24. However, these numbers did not take into account the students who left OUSD altogether after a closure/merger. In the presentation, a slide documenting the use of the Opportunity Ticket also included these numbers: 14 students from Roots (9%), 37 students from Kaiser (17%) and 14 students from SOL (15%), left OUSD.

Without counting the loss of siblings to OUSD enrollment and without counting other students whose loss from the district may not have been presented, students leaving the district from just those three schools approaches a million-dollar loss of LCFF funding that has not been factored in.

As a result, it is difficult for me to believe that any plan of closures and mergers could result in a $2 million savings. Looking over the years prior to the pandemic, it was clear that in years when OUSD closed schools, the district lost enrollment and in years when OUSD did not close schools, enrollment was up.

Second, it is deeply troubling that while paying lip service to transparency and public vetting of decisions in committees, this item was listed for but was not actually presented at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting on 8/14/2021. If it is too difficult to get the relevant fiscal information to the B&F Committee on the current meeting cycle, I suggest a swap with the Facilities Committee.

I also suggest that, since B&F has reduced its regular meetings by half since 2020, that, when necessary, B&F meetings go until 8:30 or 9 pm. Hopefully, this is less taxing on staff than meeting multiple times per month.

In closing, I feel I have done my due diligence as a community member in researching these numbers and especially in attending the Budget and Finance Committee meeting last Thursday in anticipation of hearing the district’s presentation on item G-1.

This Board continues to lift up the work of committees as a means of engaging the public in decision making. Clearly, that is not happening, and I hope each of you will refuse to vote on items that have not been through the vetting process you have declared should happen. I encourage you also to re-visit the extensive presentations to the Board made on 5/12/2021 on the first two cohorts (Item M 21-0852) to judge for yourselves whether current projections seem reasonable in light of data drawn from actual experience.

Looking over the projections prior to those cohorts, and in particular prior to the Kaiser closure, you will also see under-projections of enrollment loss.

Finally, please consider that the enrollment loss pattern for this year that seems to be emerging would be 400% worse if it followed the percentages of district enrollment loss occasioned by recent closure/mergers.

Thank you for your attention.

Carol Delton sent this email to school district officials and community members on Oct. 17, 2021.

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Scholarships For San Francisco Youth Who Get COVID-19 Vaccine

City residents ages 12 to 17 are eligible to have their tuition covered at San Francisco State if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19

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San Francisco State University (SF State), the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) announced on Monday a new scholarship program for San Francisco residents ages 12 to 17 who received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Through a drawing, SF State is offering 10 scholarships to fully fund four years of undergraduate tuition to the university for eligible youth who register at participating vaccination locations in the City, which include:

  • Monday, October 25, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. — Visitation Valley Neighborhood Vaccination Site, 1099 Sunnydale Ave., San Francisco, CA 94134
  • Tuesday, October 26, 3:30 to 6:00 p.m. — Malcolm X Academy School, 350 Harbor Rd., San Francisco, CA 94124
  • Wednesday, October 27, 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. — Balboa High School, 1000 Cayuga Ave., San Francisco, CA 94112
  • Friday, October 29, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. — Ella Hill Hutch Community Center, 1050 McAllister St., San Francisco, CA 94115
  • Tuesday, November 2, noon to 4:00 p.m. — Mission District Neighborhood Vaccination Site, 24th and Capp St., San Francisco, CA 94110
  • Saturday, November 13, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — McCoppin Elementary School, 651 6th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94118

“These college scholarships are an incredible reward for San Francisco teens doing the right thing for themselves and their community – and that is being a part of ending this pandemic by getting the COVID-19 vaccination,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “Our teens have endured over a year of distance learning and missed interactions with their friends. These scholarships will carry their education forward and help shape their future in innumerable ways.”

“SF State is committed to supporting college attendance among young people in San Francisco and helping to promote the City’s vaccination goals,” SF State President Lynn Mahoney said. “These scholarships can further public health objectives while lifting up a new generation of leaders for our workforce.”

“We encourage all eligible SFUSD students to get vaccinated and to gain the skills necessary to attend college if they so choose,” SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said. “As an SF State alumnus and Gator myself, I truly appreciate the University’s efforts to support health and college access among our City’s youth.”

Since becoming eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in May, more than 90% of San Francisco’s youth ages 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated, making this one of the highest vaccination rates among age groups in the City.

“The SF State scholarship program complements our City’s strategy to provide low-barrier access to COVID-19 vaccinations in San Francisco communities, which has resulted in one of the highest vaccination rates in the world,” said Deputy Director of Health Dr. Naveena Bobba. “We’re proud that our 12- to 17-year-old youth have reached such high vaccination rates, and incentive programs like these can help give an extra push to unvaccinated individuals to take immediate action to get vaccinated, protecting themselves, their loved ones and our community.”

Scholarships will be awarded in the amount of the difference between qualifying expenses for in-state tuition and fees and other federal and/or state financial aid awarded to the winner. In the event a winner’s federal and/or state financial aid awards fully cover the cost of in-state tuition and fees, the student will be awarded $2,000 per academic year. All scholarships will be credited to the individual’s student account for each semester of enrollment.

Residents are eligible to enter the drawing if they meet all the following requirements:

  • Permanently resides in San Francisco (including people living in San Francisco who meet AB 540 eligibility)
  • Received at least the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine two-shot series prior to entry. Must be age 12 to 17 when this occurs
  • Currently not enrolled at a college or university nor have been previously been enrolled in college or university
  • Not an employee or immediate family of an employee of SF State living as a member of the employee’s household. Consistent with California Government Code section 82029, “immediate family” means spouse and dependent children

Residents can receive the vaccine from the participating sites to become eligible, but it is not required. Residents who receive the vaccine elsewhere or are already vaccinated are eligible to register for the drawing.

How to enter

Eligible residents will have the opportunity at the participating sites to complete a form that enters them in the drawing. SF State staff will be there to verify that registrants qualify and to help residents enter the drawing. The last day to enter the drawing is November 13.

Selecting the winners

The winners will be randomly selected from among all eligible entries received. A minimum of one and a maximum of two winners will be selected from each participating vaccination locations.

The official announcement of the winners will publish the week of November 22. Winners will be notified prior to announcement.

For more information regarding the official rules, FAQs and health privacy, visit together.sfsu.edu/vaccinescholarship or email enrollment@sfsu.edu.

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