CALPADS put on ice

Brown wants full review of testing and data

Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to suspend funding for CALPADS, the state student longitudinal data system, and to stop further planning for CALTIDES, the teacher data base that was to be joined at the hip with CALPADS. That big piece of education news was tucked away in May Revision of the state budget that Brown presented on Monday.

Like his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brown has been critical of CALPADS, which is a year behind schedule. Consultants hired by the Department of Education have sharply criticized state oversight of the system and its builder, IBM. But unlike Schwarzenegger, who believed in CALPADS’ mission, Brown is skeptical of the value of  collecting extensive data on schools and individual students’ achievement and of standardized testing itself. He wants to use the hiatus, he says in a summary of the proposed education budget (page 7), by “carefully reforming testing and accountability requirements to achieve genuine accountability and maximum local autonomy.”

Brown says his administration (presumably through the State Board of Education) will involve parents, scholars, teachers and administrators to develop policies that will reduce the time devoted to standardized testing, eliminate data collecting that’s not useful to local schools, and “restore power to school administrators, teachers and parents” (whatever that means).

Brown’s ambivalence, which he expressed to the State Board during an impromptu visit in January, comes at a time when the State Board must decide how to renew the contract for the California Standardized Tests and whether to join either or both consortiums of  states designing new assessments for the Common Core standards in English language arts and math.

The suspension of work on CALPADS and CALTIDES will eliminate nine jobs funded by about $3.5 million in federal money. CALPADS was established as a way of collecting accountability data required by the federal government. That job will be done by another data system, the California Basic Educational Data System, that existed before CALPADS.

Many advocates of reform had high hopes for the research that CALPADS would provide. Oakland-based Education Trust-West said it was “deeply concerned” about the suspension of funding for the system.

“Without an education data system, it is impossible to make informed decisions on behalf of students as we spend scarce education resources,” the organization said in a statement.  “A step away from CALPADS is a step away from the increased transparency and accountability that is vital to ongoing community support for our public schools.”


  1. John    You identify groups in a strange way.  If they want any change they are “advocates of reform” regardless of the effectiveness or  cost of their change de jour.   Most of the groups  you refer to as “reform”  are paid advocates of one foundation or another with very clear motivations and not always what may be good for students.  John Mockler

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  2. A question – isn’t CBEDS a ‘paper’ system?  Prior to CALPADS and CSIS, districts reported information such as  enrollment, graduates, dropouts etc to the state on paper forms.  Is this what the Governor is saying we will return to doing?  This seems like an enormous step backwards.  With districts submitting student level data to CALPADs (which is compared to the data of other districts and discrepancies reported) all of this information is much, much more accurate.

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  3. With CALPADS, CDE could have leveraged the resources of the academic and policy communities to learn more about the best ways to improve student outcomes in California.  Now Governor Brown wants to put CALPADS on ice and collect less, not more, data.  Brown’s dismissal of the value of data and research is short-sighted and not what I would have expected.

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  4. CALPADS has improved some data I agree, but users have difficulty getting reports to run.  We cannot check for accuracy without them.  When reports do run they are often wrong.
    Lastly, there is no ability to customize reports and this is a major flaw.

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    · Gov Brown’s proposed cut of FEDERAL funding for CALPADS and CALTIDES won’t save a dime of state funding or help close California’s budget gap. With the eliminatiion of funds for this project at the CA Dept. of Education and OTECH (the state’s data center) to house the data and provide the servers and platform for IBM to finish the contracted work on CALPADS:
    · IBM won’t have a platform from which to finish loading Assessment data into CALPADS, finish the development of the End-of-Year data collection, or correct any current defects in the system.
    · Because California has a signed contract, the State will have to pay IBM the remaining $7 million while the project remains incomplete.
    · Schools won’t be able to get any new SSIDs for new students and they won’t be able to report exits for students leaving their school.
    · California won’t be able track students across the state or across time. Without SSID exit records, CDE won’t be able to produce four-year cohort graduation or dropout rates after this year.

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  6. I am also concerned about the lost of useful information in the system.  My sense is that we would be better off continuing CALPADS while we design a successor.  The current system won’t do for us what needs to be done–rapid feedback, formative assistance for teachers and schools–and it will probably need to be replaced.  But replacements take a while to develop.  I am reminded of the achievement data hiatus that existed after Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed CLAS in 1994.  (Those tests, though flawed, had many of the qualities that critics of the current ones seek.)  The state was without a viable testing service for several years, and it probably took a decade for teaching and testing to align.

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  7. In connection with John Mockler’s comment: We co-founders of Parents Across America had to address that difficulty in categorizing “education reform” advocates. Of course everyone who wants change and improvement — including those of us who want teachers supported, not punished; who want schools adequately funded, not starved; and who want collaboration, not ruthless competition where it’s applauded that some kids are “winners” and some are cast off as “losers” — are “reformers” too.

    So we’ve defined the brand of “reform” supported by billionaires, corporate titans, hedge-funders etc. as “corporate education reform.” I view our model (adequate funding, small classes, teachers supported and respected, collaboration fostered,  true and positive parent involvement nurtured, “public” kept in public education) as education reform with a heart.

    Here are excerpts  from teacher leader/blogger Anthony Cody’s response to Brown’s decision:
    Praise be!
    Jerry Brown is unusual among our nation’s governors. He got a bit more involved than most in on-the-ground school reform while he was serving as mayor of Oakland. He learned the hard way how schools are a reflection of deeper social issues. In a statement he wrote to respond to Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top a year and a half ago, while he was California’s Attorney General, he said:

    You assume we know how to “turn around all the struggling low performing schools,” when the real answers may lie outside of school. As Oakland mayor, I directly confronted conditions that hindered education, and that were deeply rooted in the social and economic conditions of the community or were embedded in the particular attitudes and situations of the parents. There is insufficient recognition in the draft regulations that inside and outside of school strategies must be interactive and merged.

    Even more revealing was what he wrote about federally-driven education “reform”:

    The basic assumption of your draft regulations appears to be that top down, Washington driven standardization is best. This is a “one size fit all” approach that ignores the vast diversity of our federal system and the creativity inherent in local communities. What we have at stake are the impressionable minds of the children of America. You are not collecting data or devising standards for operating machines or establishing a credit score. You are funding teaching interventions or changes to the learning environment that promise to make public education better, i.e. greater mastery of what it takes to become an effective citizen and a productive member of society. In the draft you have circulated, I sense a pervasive technocratic bias and an uncritical faith in the power of social science.

    We all know that Secretary Duncan did not heed Jerry Brown’s thoughtful advice, and still has not. But Brown’s proposed budget takes on the testing machine from the top, and that is a very hopeful sign.

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  8. Brown’s proposed budget takes on the testing machine from the top, and that is a very hopeful sign.
    Indeed, in deed!
    Secretary Duncan disregarded Jerry Brown’s advice as well as that of the National Academy of Sciences.   Governor Brown is in good company.   The “Race to the Top” machine has no wheels and no engine.  Other states are almost sure to follow California’s lead.

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  9. I’m curious about Dick Schutz’s comment about the Academy of Sciences’ position on “Race to the Top”.  I’m personally completely opposed to most standardized testing just from looking around at my daughter’s school and friends’ schools, and seeing what a waste of time, money, and energy it is, and what a corrosive effect it can have on what is taught and how.  And I’m delighted that our admittedly strange but brighter than average governor is pulling back from too much testing.  But I had no idea the Academy had a position on testing.  Please tell us more.

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  10. I will have to disagree with the comments regarding Gov. Brown’s short-sightedness.
    I agree that, in theory, yes dropping CALPADS and CALTIDES would reduce the data collected and cross-referenced. However, CALPADS is frankly a really bad system. Data collection is only as good as the data entered.
    For three years, education has taken the lion share of cuts from the State. These cuts resulted in less and less support for these systems at the local level because all districts cut support first and teachers second.  Small school districts, which serve less than 1,000 students, account for 40% of all the school districts in CA. These school districts don’t have a dedicated technology or reporting person to make sure the data is accurate. Therefore, the data cross-referenced is garbage checking garbage.
    The cutting of CALPADS and CALTIDES significantly helps local schools because this was a huge reporting requirement, which took many hours over many months to complete.  With the burden lifted those workers can now focus on other areas that have lost support over the last three years.
    Finally, the Gov. mentioned that a new system will be created involving all stakeholders. Not just throwing millions of dollars at a large tech company that knows nothing about education, nor has a stake in its usefulness and effectiveness.

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  1. California Governor Puts the Testing Juggernaut On Ice | Kennewick School District Citizens
  2. At odds over CALPADS funding | Thoughts on Public Education
  3. Common Core Challenges for California « InterACT

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