SB 1458 Expands School Assessments Beyond Standardized Tests

This week Governor Brown signed into law, SB 1458 (Steinberg), legislation which alters the structure of California's Academic Performance Index (API) by setting a 60% limit for standardized test performance for high schools. With the current API, standardized tests constitute 100% of the accountability measure. The remaining 40% must include graduation rates as well as other college and career readiness factors that reflect the expectations of public education and the needs of the state's workforce. Promotion rates for grades 7-12 may also be included. In primary and middle schools, standardized test performance would comprise at least 60% of the API.

The bill requires the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) submit, for approval by the State Board of Education, valid, reliable, and stable measures of college and career readiness. SB 1458 encourages the SPI to develop school quality reviews to complement the API. The review process would feature locally convened panels to visit schools, observe teachers, interview pupils and examine pupil work. The bill also requires that the SPI report to the Legislature, by October 1, 2013, on alternative methods, in place of decile rank, for determining eligibility, preferences, or priorities for statutory programs currently using decile rank as a determining factor.

The legislation is a reworking of last year's SB 547, which included language about a "Creativity and Innovation Index", which was vetoed by the Governor. SB 1458 does not include any mention of the index, but is significant from our perspective because it opens the current system of accountability to embrace other considerations that measure student success. Hopefully that expansion will lead to recognition of other aspects of a complete educational experience, including arts education and creativity.  The California Alliance supported the original legislation (SB 547) and applauds this move away from narrow expectations of students that focus on standardized tests.