Top priority: The push for K-12 accountability

Youngsters in a California classroom. (Photo: Monkey Business Images, via Shutterstock)

The clock is ticking for our kids. Within a few weeks, The State Board of Education will determine many K-12 school accountability provisions in our education system for decades to come.

Two years ago the state dismantled its school accountability system to allow time for transitioning to and defining new education reforms. We have reached the point where a new statewide accountability system is essential to ensure schools in all corners of the state are best serving students.

Done right, it will help boost student achievement and uphold the state’s responsibility to provide all children access to a high quality education.

The demand for a statewide school accountability system comes at a time when the business community is in growing need of diverse, skilled and qualified applicants to fill increased demands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs. According to the EnCorps STEM Teachers Program, “less than 1 in 6 college students in California are majoring in STEM fields, ranking California the 45th state in the nation producing students with STEM degrees.”

The increasing lack of skilled workers to meet the demands of industry, as well as the absence of diversity in the tech workforce, are top of mind threats in Silicon Valley. As revealed in the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s recent survey of company executives, diversifying and strengthening the STEM pipeline is a top economic competitiveness issue. The Leadership Group has adopted this as a primary education objective and second overall across all other issue areas.

As work continues to address California’s STEM challenges, we must have a statewide school accountability system in place to know if students are thriving and if gaps are closing. We need data to know how new education reforms are working and to assess how students in a particular district are doing compared to their peers in other regions and statewide.

Over the last several years, policy leaders have championed historic efforts to transform K-12 public education to better support all students, especially our most vulnerable and at-risk. California now has an improved process for funding schools and our Common Core State Standards, Next Generation Science Standards and the aligned-assessments are working to help prepare students for college, career and civic life.

Designing a statewide accountability system is the next critical step. Done right, it will help boost student achievement and uphold the state’s responsibility to provide all children access to a high quality education. Done poorly, it could foster a dynamic where students continue to slip through the cracks. This would be an unacceptable fate in communities across California, particularly in places like Santa Clara County where only 23 percent of Latino students and 29 percent of African American students are meeting grade level standards in math.

So, what should statewide accountability look like? Ideally, the system would:

  • Enable parents and the public to readily know if a school’s students are succeeding or struggling with clear information and expectations,
  • Designate someone from the state to support struggling schools and districts,
  • Disaggregate data to demonstrate how underserved, students of color are achieving,
  • Demonstrate how our students are prepared for college and career success,

This is a major undertaking but it’s within reach. Lawmakers in Sacramento must finish their work to reform K-12 education and establish an effective statewide school accountability system. This will finalize California’s improved public education system and realize its full potential and intended purpose.

Parents, community leaders and engaged stakeholders must reach out to the State Board, the Governor’s office and local Legislators to make their voices heard on school accountability. The future of 600,000 kids in Silicon Valley and millions more across the state depends on us.

Ed’s Note: Kristina Peralta is director of Education & Workforce Preparedness for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Kevin Murai is CEO of Synnex and Ted Lempert is president of Children Now.


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