The California Depart­ment of Education on Thurs­day unveiled the 2018 California School Dash­board — an updated ver­sion of the website that debuted last year — that pro­vides a user-friend­ly, col­or­ful interface for par­ents, students, and edu­ca­­tors to evaluate school and district performance and identify strengths and weak­­nesses.

The Dashboard displays data based on how a school or district performed and how much they have im­proved or declined over time. Schools and districts receive one of five color-coded performance levels. From lowest to highest the colors are red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. A school or district’s overall performance level is based on the current performance and the change from the previous year.

The website, www.caschooldashboard.org, is fully accessible on smart­phones and tablets. The new Dashboard also has the most current data avail­­able, including 2018 test scores and graduation rates. Parents can peruse their children’s school per­form­ance on chronic ab­sent­eeism, suspension rate, English learner prog­ress, graduation rate, col­lege and career read­i­ness, and English language arts, and mathematics.

The Dashboard also includes detailed in­for­ma­tion on student sub­groups such as African Amer­i­cans, foster youth, Eng­lish learn­ers, homeless stu­dents, and students with disabilities.

The updated Dashboard includes several new ad­di­tions. For example, schools and districts that serve kin­der­garten through eighth-grade were eval­u­ated on school at­tend­ance via the Chronic Ab­sent­eeism in­dic­ator. In ad­di­tion, high schools were evaluated for the first time on the College/Car­eer Read­­i­­ness indicator. The new Dashboard also in­cludes scores for 11th grade students on the Academic indicator. Also new to the Dashboard indicators are the inclusion of students who attend alternative schools such as continuation high schools and programs for incarcerated youth.  The four-year cohort graduation rate reflects changes in methodology compliant with  the U.S. Department of Education requirements.

The state identified 374 districts statewide — up from 228 districts last year — for specialized, or dif­fer­entiated assistance. Those districts, including 10 An­tel­ope Valley districts, up from six last year, had one or more student groups in the “red” on two met­rics. The local districts iden­tified last year and in­cluded on this year’s list as well are An­tel­ope Val­ley Union High School Dis­trict, Eastside Union School District, Lan­cas­ter School District, Muroc Joint Unified School Dis­trict, Palmdale School Dis­trict, and Southern Kern Unif­ied School District. The new districts on the list are Keppel Union School Dis­trict, Muroc Joint Unified School District, Westside Union School District, and Wilsona School District.

Three school districts — Eastside Union School District and Palmdale and Wilsona school districts — had four student groups with the red, or lowest performance level on at least two of the state  met­rics.  Muroc Joint Unified School District had three student groups in the red level on at least two of the state metrics. Mojave Unified School District had two student groups, and Lancaster School District and Keppel and Westside union school districts each had one student group in the  red level on at least two of the state metrics.

The Dashboard system is only in its second year. Part of the data comes from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, which is in its third year.

AV Union High School District had six student groups in the ‘red” zone. For example, six of 11 student groups —African American, English learners, foster youth, homeless, low-in­come, and students with disabilities —placed in the “red” on English language arts. For mathematics, African American, English learners, Hispanic, home­less, low-income, and stu­dents of two or more races placed in the “red” zone.

Overall, the high school district saw an 18.8 point decline in its English language arts scores to the “orange” level, and an eight-point decline in its mathematics score to the “red” level.

For the last three years the district has given eighth through 11th grade students the Preliminary SAT, and compared how they performed on the CAASPP. Students who took the PSAT performed bet­ter on the SAT than they did on the CAASPP, district officials said.

The district’s grad­u­a­tion rate was 82.9% in the “yellow” zone and main­tained. The grad­u­a­tion includes some special ed­u­ca­tion students who are sev­ere­ly disabled and would not ordinarily be on a diploma track. Those stu­dents would receive a cer­tif­icate of completion but that counts against the district’s graduation rate. The dis­trict’s graduation rate is about 88% based on data from the comprehensive schools sites and SOAR High School. SOAR in par­tic­ular is a highlight for the dis­trict. The early-college edu­cation program ranked in the “blue” on all but one metric — English language arts — where it was green.

“We continuously eval­u­ate the success of our stu­dents’ learning, and align our overall district plan to strengthen areas that need improvement,” As­sist­­ant Su­per­intendent of Edu­ca­tional Services Greg Nehen said in a statement. “The Dash­board has been avail­able for just under two years, and has evolved with each iteration. Like most school districts, we are re­view­­ing what the in­for­ma­tion presented about our schools reflects, and how it aligns with the measures we have in place to ensure stu­­dent achievement. We ap­pre­ciate the ability to use multiple measures to de­fine success, and look for­ward to ongoing dialogue about Dashboard results with our various school com­munities.”

The Palmdale Aerospace Academy, an independent char­ter school, scored in the “blue” metric for grad­u­a­tion rate, “green” metric for college and career read­i­ness, “orange” for Eng­lish language arts, math­em­atics, and chronic ab­sent­eeism, and yellow for suspension rate.

“We are proud of our high school graduation rate and that our students scored well on the college/car­eer readiness metric,” Lena DeYoung, TPAA Ac­count­ability Pro­gram coor­din­a­tor, said in a statement. “These results reinforce our mission and vision to pre­pare students for col­lege and a wide variety of careers. To address de­clin­­ing CAASPP scores, our CAASPP Coordinators have generated an action plan with a strategic focus on essential standards in Eng­­lish Language Arts and Math­em­atics. In response to our increased chronic ab­sen­teeism rate, the coun­­sel­ing department is work­ing with families and our attendance clerk to iden­tify possible solutions. This includes coordinating trans­­por­tation logistics to reduce the number of chron­ically absent stu­dents.”

“I’m so proud of our stu­dents and the work they’re doing,” TPAA Head­master Laura Her­man said.

The Dashboard replaced the Academic Performance Index, the state’s former ac­count­ability system that re­lied on standardized tests and assigned schools a three-digit index to meas­ure academic im­prove­ment. The index ranged from 200 to 1,000 with the goal of reaching 800. Schools that did not meet state goals faced sanc­tions. That system was sus­pended four years ago.

To share your opinion on this article or any other article, write a letter to the editor and email it to editor@avpress.com or mail it to Letters to Editor, PO Box 4050, Palmdale CA 93590-4050.

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