Final adjustment on evaluation dashboard

Final adjustment on evaluation dashboard

(Calif.) Staring at a deadline sometime this month for giving the public its first access to a web-based delivery of a host of new school and student performance indicators, officials at the California Department of Education will likely be putting in some overtime.

At a hearing before the state board Wednesday, staff was given a laundry list of changes and tweaks that need to be made before the curtain rises on the new system, which no doubt is still being fettled with by technicians.

Although both the CDE and the California State Board of Education are still bracing for the day parents and taxpayers and the mainstream media actually get a chance to engage the new system, the reviews from field testing appears promising.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done, but let’s take a moment to just breathe and say, this is really a tremendous improvement over where we were just a few years ago,” said Bruce Holaday, reappointed by the governor to the SBE in January.

Called the California School Dashboard, the new interactive website is intended to provide a seamless, user-friendly environment for the public to either access a quick overview of how a school or a district is doing, or to drill down deeper into the analytics of subgroup performance.

The product of more than five years of work, the new dashboard expresses a wide range of performance indicators as opposed to just test scores that the state used for decades to communicate school success. Ironically, the fact that the Legislature and the governor are firmly committed to judging schools on numerous indicators stands as the biggest change that the public will need to understand and accept.

Meanwhile, based on the discussion before the board Wednesday, some major changes will need to be made to the dashboard itself.

The system provides each district the ability to report on performance indicators that have been locally defined. Based on the existing system established by the Local Control Accountability Plans, districts can set their own goals and report back to the community and the state on their progress.

The language proposed by CDE staff Wednesday for articulating that progress, however, called for districts to simply report if data related to the indicator had been collected and was available.

That is, “data reported” or “data not reported,” as opposed to performance standard met or not met.

CDE staff explained that the more neutral language was called for by a large cross-section of district representatives in stakeholder meetings held in recent weeks. A majority of the SBE members disagreed.

“What we voted for was standards met, not met, not met for two-years,” said Feliza Ortiz-Licon, speaking for many on the board. “When you are just saying data reported, it’s a check-off. When we have standards met, not met–it invites a discussion between administrators and parents to really dialogue about whether we met the standards or not.”

The board also seemed to direct staff to adjust where on the dashboard data on 11 grade test scores would be located. The general consensus seemed to be that for it should be on one of the initial school or district screens so that parents didn’t have to look too deep for that information.