Each district operating an alternative school shall annually evaluate such school. The evaluation shall include testing of basic skills for student participants, and must identify the variables which may have affected student academic achievement. The process of evaluation shall also include teacher, parent, and student input from the alternative school itself. These evaluation reports shall be sent to the Superintendent of Public Instruction on or before August 1st of the following year and shall be annually reviewed by persons designated by the superintendent who are not employed by the district operating the alternative.
The guidelines that follow have been developed to assist educators responsible for evaluating alternative schools and programs of choice1 and for developing the annual reports of those evaluations.2 In addition to complying with statute, the annual report supplies useful information to the governing board, district administrators, and the community. The annual report will:
- Show how well the alternative school or program of choice is helping students achieve grade-level proficiency
- Track changes in the school or program over time
- Identify any assistance needed in meeting its objectives
- Provide community-wide information about its accomplishments
Preparing the Annual Report
- Complete the Alternative School or Program of Choice Annual Report Information Sheet (DOC). Place this page on the top of your completed report.
- Prepare the following sections of the report.
Note: The information may be gathered from other required reports, such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges report and the School Accountability Report Card.
In this section, provide an overview of the alternative school or program of choice. Include background information (when the school/program began, why it was established, its purpose and goals, and other relevant information). If this is not a first year report, highlight successes and challenges that will be discussed later in the report.
- Identification of Variables
In this section, describe the variables (special features) of the school or program that may have affected student outcomes.
Identification of these variables is a requirement of EC Section 58510. The focus of this requirement is on the features of the alternative school or program learning environment that differentiate it from other schools and programs.
Some examples of variables (or clusters of variables) follow:
- A highly mobile student population
- A different instructional strategy, such as independent study or dual immersion language instruction
- A different structure, such as multiple-grades classes instead of single-grade classes
- A different curriculum focused on a particular theme, such as the performing arts or technology
- A different educational philosophy, such as Montessori or Waldorf
- The use of small learning communities
- A focus on at-risk students or those facing significant challenges
If applicable, include any objectives/goals related to the variables, a discussion of how well each objective/goal was or was not met, and any recommendations for the next school year. (This information may be included in the next section if it is more appropriate.)
- Academic Achievement
In this section, provide a description, summary, and analysis of the data related to student academic achievement. In addition to test results, this may include information about course completion, attendance, or any other method or strategy that measures student achievement.
As required by EC Section 58510, all students of the alternative school or program of choice must be tested for basic skills. Students of these schools and programs are required to participate in the same tests as other students in the district.
Provide a summary of test data trends over three consecutive years (if available). Data may be presented in text, tables, or graphs. Summarize data from state tests (including results from the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program and California High School Exit Exam, if appropriate), pre- and post-test results (if administered), and any other measures used to record academic change, along with:
- An analysis of the results
- A description of student achievement at the school or program as compared with achievement at comparable traditional schools in the district
- A comparison of the results for the school or program over the three-year period
- Teacher/Student/Parent/Guardian Input
In this section, provide a copy of the material(s) used to gather input. Include the results for each question asked and an evaluation of the results.
Teacher, student, and parent/guardian input about the alternative school or program is required. Although the EC does not specify a particular method for getting information from the three groups, surveys or questionnaires are commonly used to solicit observations and opinions.
Objectivity and accuracy are important, so whoever is collecting the data should consider how best to get representative, as well as adequately comprehensive comments.
Generally, it is preferable to collect the data near the end of the school year.
- Conclusions and Recommendations
In this section, describe:
- How well the school or program performed during the evaluation year
- Any significant accomplishments
- Any areas that need improvement
- Recommendations for improvement
When and Where to Submit Annual Evaluation Reports
The law requires that the data, findings, conclusions, and recommendations from the annual evaluation process be reported to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) on or before August 1 following the close of the school year. The annual evaluation report should be presented to the local school district governing board before it is forwarded to the California Department of Education.
Two copies of the evaluation report should be mailed annually to the SSPI, addressed as follows:
Educational Options, Student Support, and American Indian Education Office
California Department of Education
1430 N Street, Suite 6408
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901
1 The “Alternative Schools and Programs” provided for in EC sections 58500 to 58512 are referred to as “alternative schools and programs of choice” to distinguish these schools and programs from alternative schools and programs that primarily serve high-risk students.
2 These guidelines have been developed pursuant to the provisions of EC Section 58511, which states: “The State Superintendent of Public Instruction shall establish minimum standards to further implement the definition of alternative schools as used in Section 58500 and may also establish such further guidelines as may be deemed by him necessary to the proper administration of this article.”