California launches updated school dashboard website

The California Department of Education (CDE) and the State Board of Education (SBE) have launched the second version of the California School Dashboard, a website that gives parents, students, and educators access to valuable school and district data.

The 2018 Dashboard includes two new metrics for evaluating school and district performance and a new, user-friendly look that makes complex data easier to understand. The Dashboard is now fully accessible on smart phones and tablets, is easier to navigate, and has improved graphics. The new Dashboard also has the most current data available, including 2018 test scores and graduation rates.

“The Dashboard helps schools identify strengths and weaknesses in many different areas that measure success,” said State Superintendent Tom Torlakson. “I urge educators, parents, and communities to turn this data into positive action by using it to target resources where improvement is needed and to share practices where success is demonstrated.”

The Dashboard is a key component of California’s five-year overhaul of the state’s school accountability system. It displays statewide data based on status (how each school or district performed) and change (how much they have improved or declined over time). School and district performance levels are indicated by color, with red the lowest and blue the highest. The Dashboard also breaks down information by student group (low-income, English learner, foster youth, etc.) to help pinpoint and address achievement gaps.

“The Dashboard shows us which students have the greatest needs and which areas of our educational system need the most attention, which is exactly what it was designed to do,” said State Board of Education President Michael W. Kirst. “Challenges that once may have been hidden, such as how poverty, homelessness, and disability affect student learning, are now in sharp focus. Conversely, it also shows us which school districts are succeeding so they can serve as models for others as we build professional sharing networks throughout the state.”

The 2018 Dashboard includes several new additions, including:

  • Two new metrics. Schools, districts, and county offices of education that serve K–8 students are being evaluated for the first time on school attendance via the Chronic Absenteeism Indicator. In addition, schools that serve grades 9–12 are being evaluated for the first time on the College/Career Readiness Indicator.
  • Grade 11 test scores. Schools, districts, and county offices of education that administer the Smarter Balanced Assessments in math and English language arts in grade 11 are being evaluated for the first time with a red-through-blue color on the Academic Indicator.
  • Dashboard Alternative School Status (DASS) Schools. For the first time, the performance of students who attend alternative schools (such as continuation high schools and programs for incarcerated youth) are now factored into Dashboard indicators. Many of these schools are operated by county offices of education.
  • Graduation rate. The four-year cohort graduation rate reflects changes in methodology in compliance with U.S. Department of Education requirements.

The Dashboard has two main purposes: At the local level, the Dashboard helps communities identify strengths and challenges and align resources to support students who are struggling academically. On the state level, the indicators determine which districts are eligible for tailored assistance through the State System of Support, a connected network of agencies throughout California. Districts with one or more student group in the “red” on two metrics are eligible for state help. Last year, 228 districts were eligible for state assistance. This year, with the Dashboard’s added metrics and other changes, 374 districts qualify for specialized assistance. The 2018 Budget Act, signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., included an extra $80 million to strengthen the System of Support, which is made up of a teams of experts from the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence and 58 county offices of education.

“Whether rural or urban, low-income or affluent, all school districts have strengths and challenges and all school districts can do more to improve student learning,” said El Dorado County Office of Education Superintendent Ed Manansala, incoming president of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association. “Our goal with the System of Support is to help districts build the skills and knowledge needed to understand and address student needs. County offices of education are well-positioned for this work because we understand the local needs.”

The Dashboard replaces the state’s former accountability system—the Academic Performance Index (API), which relied exclusively on standardized tests and gave schools a single score. That system was suspended four years ago.

“California continues to provide unprecedented resources through the System of Support to address the complex needs of students under the context of local control. Negative labels, sanctions, and top-down mandates of the past don’t help districts disaggregate data or diagnose problems,” said Executive Director of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) Tom Armelino. “Collaborating with county offices of education, school districts, and charter schools, the CCEE embraces the opportunity to examine the Dashboard data to help districts develop goals, determine gaps, and identify resources to support the needs of students at the local level.”