State test results were it came out this weekand as was suspected after the pandemic, they had nothing to brag about.
Two out of three California students did not meet state math standards, and more than half did not meet English standards.
However, Monday’s public release of the data almost did not happen.
The California Department of Education originally planned to release test results later this year — a break from the past. While test results are typically released between August and October, state education officials said they plan to hold off this year until more data, such as absence and suspension rates, is available.
With the election around the corner — and a state superintendent of public instruction Tony Thurmond on the ballot — the proposed timing drew criticism.
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The Department of Education eventually reversed course and released statewide scores ahead of the Nov. 8 election after Edsource legally contested the postponement decision results.
The process has forced questions about government transparency and the public’s right to access data related to student achievement amid national concerns about learning loss.
Most districts received test results this summer, but when Edsource requested statewide results in September, they reported that the Department of Education refused to release them.
As part of a public records request, lawyers for Edsource, which analyzes the data each year, argued that it is not in the public interest to sit on test results that have already been released to communities.
Education Department officials say the plan was to delay the release of the scores in an effort to mark them as just one piece of student progress, with the goal of getting a “more holistic view” by combining the results with other data sets expected later this year. .
School districts, including Los Angeles Unified, have made progress in sharing their alarming results with families, but without national disclosure, districts would not be able to measure how they are doing compared to others.
Troy Flintspokesman for the California School Boards Assn., said that while local leaders had the information, there were still practical benefits to earlier public disclosure.
It was the first time the public has gotten a clear idea of where students stand since the tests were canceled during the 2019-20 school year and districts could opt out for the 2020-21 school year.
“State data helps identify areas of student need that can be used to guide investments during the next state budget cycle,” Flint said. “It is also important as a factor in parent decision-making, as a catalyst for community involvement in addressing student needs, and in shaping public opinion about government transparency.”
As for the Department of Education changing their stance to release the scores now? State officials say they have not succumbed to public pressure, but that other data they hoped would influence test results will not be available anytime soon.
Schools were given more time to certify some of that data, so the original goal of a comprehensive notification was no longer “feasible,” he said Maria Claytona spokesperson for the Ministry of Education.
Clayton said in an email that the goal has always been to release the scores “as soon as possible in a way that is most useful to parents and school districts for local decision-making.
Govt. Gavin Newsomwho is also up for re-election next month, reiterated the “longer-than-expected” process for schools, but has largely shied away from it.
“The governor’s office is not involved in the release of test results,” Alex Stacka Newsom spokesman said in an email.
Critics, including Republicans hoping to oust Democratic incumbent Thurmond from office next month, quickly accused the state of keeping the results under wraps because they wouldn’t look good to voters.
Monday’s release came weeks after ballots were mailed out.
The state Senate Minority Leader said in a statement Monday Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) criticized California’s “one-party rule” and attributed the test results to a failure of Democratic policy.
“It’s no wonder these scores were kept under lock and key,” Wilk said.
The Senate Republican Caucus wrote a letter to Thurmond last month urging him to release the results. “Sunshine and transparency should never be a political issue,” the lawmakers wrote.
Lance Christensena Republican candidate running against Thurmond for superintendent, said, “If the numbers were good, we’d be shouting them from the rooftops.
But for some it is water under the bridge. After all, the scores are here now – and they show serious academic deficiencies.
“I think this confirms what we already knew – that the pandemic had an impact on children,” he said Edgar Zazueta, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators. “This is our new baseline. This is our new reality. I think what will be telling will be where we are in a year. We have some work to do.”
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While state results were finally released before the election, the process was complicated.
Thurmond was not on the media call regarding the results.
Instead, reporters were given 30 minutes to question the deputy superintendent Malia Vella questions in Zoom chat last Friday, but without the full data image, which was still embargoed.
Monday’s state test results were released just hours after the results of a separate national assessment were released, allowing California’s results to both dwarf and compare to states that fared worse.
In a limited media call Friday, Vella laid out strict ground rules for reporters.
“Violation of the embargo will result in your media not having future access to preliminary data or media previews, in addition to any other remedies CDE may choose to apply,” Vella, who is also an Alameda City member. Advice, he said.
So far, the Education Department has denied two public records requests filed by the Times regarding its handling of the release of test scores.
Thurmond declined to comment for this reporter.
California’s political lightning rod
— Newsom and the state of Sen. Brian Dahl they traded barbs in the only gubernatorial debate.
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— Newsom challenged LA city councilors Kevin De Leon and Gil Cedillo resign over racist audio leak.
— George Skelton weighs in on a recent poll showing support for Newsom despite voter frustration.
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Times staff writer Paloma Esquivel contributed to this report.