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State gives schools new report card

The California Department of Education recently released an updated and more detailed version of the California School Dashboard, which will allow parents to more closely track how well their local districts and schools are performing on various measures.

When the state changed the way schools received funding and instituted the Local Control Funding Formula law in 2013, state officials said they needed a system that could hold local educational agencies accountable for student performance. The result would be a tool known as the California School Dashboard, which attempts to provide parents and educators with meaningful information on the academic progress happening in their local area.

“The dashboard was created to give parents and the public a better idea of what is happening in our schools and districts and to identify districts and schools that need extra help,” the California Dashboard website states. It also helps facilitate discussion and decisions that could improve student learning by identifying the strengths, weaknesses and areas that are in need of improvement at local schools.

“The beauty of the dashboard is it’s an accountability system,” said Janene Maxon, Castaic Union’s assistant superintendent of educational services. “It’s just like a dashboard that you’d see in your car,” so the information is pretty easy to digest and very insightful once you take a few minutes to go through each of the available sections.

Most school districts and charter schools in the Santa Clarita Valley were able to access the dashboard results as early as last week and have already began presenting the information at their district meetings, which will be highlighted by a series of articles in The Signal throughout this week.

After hundreds of meetings with parents, teachers and students, the state opted to no longer reduce its multiple measurements down to a single number, according to the dashboard. Instead, this year’s tool will use one of five colors — blue, green, yellow, orange and red — to show the success of California’s districts and school sites.

Blue is the best and highest-achieving rank, while red means a school or group is on the lowest end of the performance spectrum, Maxon said, adding, “You never want to stay in orange for more than two years because the state would equate that to a school that’s in need of extra support, and we don’t want to be there. Green is the standard. It’s where you want to be.”

As a whole, Maxon said the Castaic district’s 2,153 students had a solid showing on the dashboard after they managed to secure a green in nearly every indicator, including English language arts, mathematics, chronic absenteeism and suspension rate.

It’s even more exciting once you see that the district was more than 17.3 points above standard in the tool’s English language arts section and that certain groups were able to increase their scores from the year before, Maxon said as she compared the district’s results to the state average, which it trumped.

Despite the district as a whole scoring a green in all of the indicators, Maxon noted there are still areas where the district and specific student groups can improve.

Whether it’s the mathematics scores of the socioeconomically disadvantaged students at Castaic Middle School or those who are getting suspended for vaping-related activities, “There are multiple areas where we need to look at the students, look at their scores,” and see how they’re mastering the daily standards, Maxon said, because eventually, the district wants all of the student groups who are in orange to motor on into the green.

To see a complete overview of how each local Santa Clarita Valley school district scored on the California School Dashboard, visit caschooldashboard.org or check the daily edition of The Signal throughout this week for a breakdown of the results from each of the five local public school districts, including Sulphur Springs, Newhall, Saugus Union and the William S. Hart Union High School District.

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