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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Grade A Schools

Dec 23, 2018 12:00AM

By Steven D. Herrington, Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools

Parents of school-aged children may not be aware of a new online tool, the California School Dashboard. With its graphic-heavy, easy-to-read format, the Dashboard provides a wealth of information about how schools are serving children. By looking up a school and taking a glance at its virtual “dashboard,” which has gauges representing important metrics, parents and community members can take a “peek under the hood” and see how a school is serving the needs of the full spectrum of its students.

Instead of doling out a single letter grade like an “A” or an “F,” the California School Dashboard gives a more complete picture of how a school is performing. It incorporates a wider range of factors, including graduation and suspension rates and English learner progress. As well, it gives an analysis of how the school is assisting students who have been found to need more support, such as foster youth and low-income students. The Dashboard’s metrics allow parents and community members to better understand how well their schools and districts are fulfilling their mission. They also help the state assess and allocate attention and resources to educational institutions that are underperforming.

The updated Dashboard 2.0, scheduled to be released this month, will allow a specific school or district’s performance to be compared to state-level data. It will also have a more user-friendly design meant to function well on both smartphones and computers. The new graphics will make it easier to navigate and understand performance data and assessments. Also, the site will be fully translated into Spanish.

The Dashboard provides a quick overview, with additional detail available, about overall performance and student group performance on multiple measures of student success. This will help in identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas in need of improvement.

To start using Dashboard, go to caschooldashboard.org and search for your school and school district. You’ll find reports on six aspects of a quality school environment:

• state data on readiness for college and careers

• graduation rates

• progress of English learners

• suspension rates

• chronic absenteeism

• scores on state standardized tests

These are shown as colored gauges with an arrow pointing to a blue area at the highest levels and red at the lowest. The gauges reflect both the current status of these metrics as well as change over time. Dashboard also gives results on how these indicators vary across different groups of students.

Districts have four measurements called “indicators.” These are based on their own measures of:

• availability of basic services

• school climate

• family engagement

• progress toward meeting subject-matter content standards

To get a comprehensive view of where your school stands and where it is going, visit caschooldashboard.org and take the new Dashboard 2.0 out for a test drive. 

Steven D. Herrington is the Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools.