AUSD needs to be held accountable

AUSD needs to be held accountable

Indignant, righteous citizens have boldly stepped up to defend the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) for its failure to communicate with the community and its folly for closing a superior school and redirecting those successful students to attend inferior schools (“,” Feb. 17).

Such imprecations are repackaged or relabeled as “potshots” at our venerable school district. While informed sources may find district administration to be “bloated” and “overpaid,” trusting, complacent citizens, without kin in the game, might not agree.

If board members are “accountable,” what are the metrics for measuring their accountability?

Does anyone know what the Academic Performance Indices (APIs) are for Alameda Schools? Probably not, the California Department of Education webpage lists the Academic Performance Index (API), as a metric that has been deleted, to wit: the “Academic Performance Index (API), was added to Programs No Longer Administered by the California Department of Education (CDE) on December 27, 2018.”

It would be politically correct to blame COVID-19, or the usual suspect, for discontinuing the API, but COVID was not a factor in whittling down measures of accountability until March of 2020.

Prior to COVID, it was the richly endowed lobbyists of the teachers’ union (CTA) that convinced CDE to drop as many academic measures as the public would tolerate or that would escape notice.

Can any reader tell us what percent of AUSD high school students are proficient in math, science, history, reading, or writing? Can anyone research what percent of AUSD high school students passed the high school exit exam?

Without standardized testing, achievement gaps can be wallpapered over with grade inflation. Passing grades can be passed out like Halloween Candy. In the absence of standardized test results, equity becomes a vague, immeasurable abstraction that can be bandied about and used as a lever to close safe successful schools.

Defenders of AUSD argue that the district “must follow rules for such things as transparency, including the possible closure of schools,” but do they? This writer asked every board member when he or she first got an inkling that Bay Farm Middle School was targeted for boarding up. Not one board member provided an answer.

If the school board were actually accountable, then to whom would it be accountable? AUSD Headquarters? The teachers’ union (AEA)? Or the taxpaying Alameda public?

When can we expect to see measures for these “educational standards?” According to a Business Insider report, the U.S. ranked 38th in math scores and 24th in science; furthermore, the United States' education rankings have fallen by international standards over the past three decades. Scholaroo ranks California 45 in the nation for public education, with a rank of 49 for student safety and a rank of 42 for school quality. Just 40% of all California students are grade-level proficient in math.

Asian students enjoy 74% proficiency in math and students identifying as White demonstrate 54% proficiency in math. Just 51% of all California students are grade-level proficient in English. Inexplicably 77% of Asian students are proficient in English, while 65% of students who identify as White are proficient in English.

Curtailing educational settings that actually work always seems to be a “financial issue.” Furloughing the top three AUSD salary earners could address the “financial issues” that forced the district to swap out quality educational opportunity for the sake of administrative costs.

In the public domain, an ounce of image is worth a pound of performance. Accountability? Try finding the percentage of AUSD students that are proficient in Math, Reading or English. What is AUSD’s response to the across-the-boards COVID learning loss that has set back expected earnings for the current generation by nearly 10%?

AUSD used to administer its own competency exams; those exams were superseded and obviated by statewide tests like CAHSEE and STAR, but does the public get confronted with the results?

This writer witnessed the decline in accountability and transparency in public education from the inside, as a math teacher at Encinal High for 25years; he wants to be proven wrong but not by vague assurances, dodgy semantics, denial, high blown fluff, hollow rhetoric, or glittering generalities but by rock hard data: standardized test scores and proficiency rates.

Jeffrey R Smith taught at Encinal High School for 25 years and is now retired.