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California to Launch New Online School Evaluation System

The California School Dashboard is designed to give parents “easy reports” about their child’s school or district, and provide detailed downloadable data that can help identify areas where schools might need help.

In March, California plans to launch a new online school evaluation system that provides parents, teachers and the community with key data to evaluate their local K-12 schools.

Called the California School Dashboard, which has been years in the making, the Web portal is designed to give parents “easy reports” about their child’s school or district, as well as provide detailed downloadable data that can help identify areas where schools might need help.

“At one glance, they can get an idea, in multiple measures, of how well their school or district is doing,” California’s Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Ashley Keric told state lawmakers last week at a joint oversight hearing held by the Assembly and Senate education committees.

“For those that need more, deeper information, there’s background information, more detailed reports, downloadable data for the data geeks that want to get into the specifics of this,” he added.

Information such as high school graduation rates, career and college readiness, English learner progress and suspension rates, as well as test scores, will eventually be made available on the color-coded dashboard.

Both state and local school district data will be entered into the dashboard, allowing for the creation of reports that can be searched by school and by district.

“The idea here is to provide information back to schools and districts so that they can identify their own strengths and weaknesses,” Keric said.

Although the dashboard goes live in March, it will not contain all the data its architects envisioned because some of it is simply not available yet. For example, the state is collecting data for the first time this year about chronic absenteeism. And the measurements for career and college readiness will be rolled out next year.

Stakeholder groups, including school districts, will also continue to suggest ways the dashboard can be improved, Keric said.

The California Department of Education has been working on a new accountability system that goes beyond test scores and is more useful than the previous Academic Performance Index that gave schools a number ranking.

That approach is exactly what school advocates say is needed to educate the community about the limited resources schools have and their needs.

“This dashboard is exactly what we have been waiting for,” said Terri Burns, legislative advocate for the California School Boards Association.

But whether the dashboard will be an easy tool to use is questionable, said Brian Rivas, director of policy and government relations at the Education Trust-West, which works to close student opportunity and achievement gaps.

“The dashboard as it sits is complex. It doesn’t lend itself to comparability of districts and schools,” Rivas said. “We’d like to see more done to make it more useful for parents and communities.”

For example, the dashboard doesn’t allow a user to compare schools within a district, and educational advocates say resources should be set aside to enrich the dashboard.

This article was originally published on Techwire.

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