The release of the California School Dashboard aligns with a value I have held since 1989, when I began my career as a teacher in Milpitas Unified School District: a quality education is defined by MORE than a single test score.
The previous accountability system, Academic Performance Index (API), was based on the results of annual standardized test scores, and nothing else. This number did not provide adequate information about strengths and growth needs because it was not a full-spectrum assessment portfolio.
California’s new state accountability tool is based on eight Local Control Funding Formula Priority Areas. In addition to data about achievement in math and English language arts, we now have data on how English learners and their language development, student suspension rates, school attendance, and details on how each of our students groups are developing based on these multiple measures. High schools will be measured on graduation rates and how well they prepare students for college and careers. In the future, the new accountability system may replace the need for the ACT and SAT for college entrance in the CA university and state college systems.
This change from one focus to a range of different topics will allow us to not only focus on the whole child, but help support local decision-making by providing more information to support our ongoing Local Control and Accountability Plan development. In addition, the new system is based not only on how our students performed and how we met the eight state priority areas this year, but also how much we have improved from past years. This is called, “status and change” and when we combine status and change, we get a color.
Schools and districts will receive one of five color-coded performance levels on the state indicators. From highest to lowest, the five performance levels are: blue, green, yellow, orange, red, with green being the target to reach. The overall performance level that LEAs and schools receive is based on how current performance (status) compares to past performance (change). This will help provide a more complete picture of performance than a point-in-time snapshot, along with recognizing improvement as part of overall performance.
Performance levels are calculated using percentiles to create a “5 by 5” reference chart that combines status and change. Just as a report card enables students to figure out how they’re doing and how they need to improve, the Dashboard will provide us with information about areas for improvement and areas of excellence.
It is important to remember that the data shown is preliminary and won’t be fully complete for several years. For more information, visit the California Department of Education’s toolkit, which includes key points and a PowerPoint presentation.