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California releases updated Dashboard for district, school accountability


Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series looking at how Santa Clarita Valley school districts performed on the fall 2017 release of the California School Dashboard.

The Department of Education released an updated version of its California School Dashboard Thursday that gives districts and schools an “online report card” of their performance while shining a light on inequities in student performance.

First released in spring of this year, the Dashboard replaced the state’s Academic Performance Index (API) that gave schools a single number rating between 200 and 1,000 based on test scores.

Instead the Dashboard uses a color-coded system of charts and graphics to evaluate school and district performance through multiple measures that focus on transparency, student equity and continuous improvement.

Schools and districts are then given a color score–ranging from blue, the best, to green, yellow, orange and red, the worst—that correlate with five pieces within a pie chart for each of the four local indicator and each of the six state indicator measures.  These scores are based on overall performance as well as change over time.

“The Dashboard helps all schools and districts improve by identifying strengths and weaknesses in many different areas, allowing parents, teachers, students, and communities to target their resources toward areas where improvement is needed,” State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a statement.  “It also highlights the performance of student groups, making disparities or achievement gaps impossible to ignore.”

This fall release of the Dashboard includes additional information about suspension rates, graduation rates and updated test scores, as well as new information about college and career readiness and chronic absenteeism.

The added data also identifies inequities among student groups that need the most help and coincides with California’s launch of its Statewide System of Support for schools and districts that need targeted assistance.

According to the California Department of Education, districts and schools become eligible for this Statewide System of Support when they have a student subgroup performing in red, the lowest score, on at least two indicators.

“These are students whose struggles would have been masked under a less comprehensive accountability system,” State Board of Education President Michael W. Kirst said in a statement.  “And with the Statewide System of Support, we are providing districts with assistance from California’s deep pool of public school experts, educators who have experience in our classrooms and know best how to address tough issues.”

These support systems include workshops, best practice sharing among educators, county-level support for struggling districts and state interventions for districts unable to improve student performance.

“This is a critical moment in our education reform efforts because we are now turning data into direct action by identifying districts that face challenges in certain areas and providing them with help rather than sanctions,” Torlakson said.

Through this process, the state identified 228 districts with at least one low-performing student group across two state priorities that include: student engagement, academic achievement, school climate, access to a broad course of study and outcomes in a broad course of study.

Through this School Dashboard, the state Department of Education said it hopes to “raise standards, empower local school communities, renew a commitment to equity and change the way it evaluates and supports schools.”

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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