The California Department of Education and the State Board of Education recently launched the 2019 California School Dashboard, which details the latest statistics on California schools’ test scores, college and career readiness and many other data points.

The dashboard was described by state leaders as a key component of California’s school accountability system since it allows parents and other educational stakeholders to more closely track how well their local districts and schools are performing on various measures.

“The California School Dashboard is a data-driven approach to provide the ‘whole picture’ of a school for educators and parents,” said State Superintendent Tony Thurmond. “The dashboard empowers local communities to identify opportunities and resources to better serve their students, and provides parents and educators with meaningful information on school and district progress so they can participate in plans to improve student learning.”

Crafted to resemble a dashboard that one would see in a car, most of the information detailed on the website is pretty easy to digest as it details information about a school or district’s population and climate and also displays colors to help readers decipher how well scholars are doing in areas like English, math and chronic absenteeism.

Blue is the best and highest-achieving rank, but most districts are content with a green score since that still represents a “proficient” level, according to the dashboard. Yellow and orange mean there is some room for improvement, while red means a school or group is on the lowest end of the performance spectrum.

Board of Education study session

The release of the updated dashboard results aligned with Thursday’s board of education meeting, which featured a discussion on a few of the metrics listed, including Cohort Graduation Rate, English Learner Progress indicator and others.

Both Jacqueline Mora, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, and Sam Koshy, SMMUSD’s Director of Assessment, were on hand during the board of education’s study session to present the district’s areas of success as well as its areas of need in relation to the dashboard scores.

“An area of success we found was the cohort graduation rate in 2018-2019,” Koshy said during a presentation Thursday, mentioning this rate was the highest it’s been in comparison to the last 5 years.

“Actually, when you drill it down to the subgroups,” Koshy added, “we find that each of the subgroups had a cohort graduation rate above 90%. The exclusion being students with disabilities,” which had an 81% cohort graduation rate.

“We (also) see that 67% of all graduates met A-G requirements,” Koshy said, meaning nearly two-thirds of all SMMUSD seniors have completed the basic requirements to apply for college acceptance. But the district also discovered the subgroups — African-American/Black, Latinx, Socio-economically Disadvantaged, English Learner and Students with Disabilities — met A-G requirements, passed one or more AP exams and met college and career readiness benchmarks at a lower rate in comparison to their peers in SMMUSD.

Later in the presentation, Koshy noted that the suspension rates were higher for specific subgroups and that 35% of staff disagreed or strongly disagreed that discipline is enforced fairly.

In response, Board Member Craig Foster said, “We as a board have an extremely strong commitment to social justice and we have an extremely strong commitment to our social justice standards… and I think the disproportionality of discipline has got to be a great exemplar in this conversation of what it means to have social justice standards.”

Foster added he is proud of the work already being implemented on local campuses, “so I love that we have the data; I love that we have the standards and I love that all of this we’re just going to keep getting better.”

Oscar de la Torres added it’s also important to consider the descriptive language that is used to define the progress students are making.

The categories like language and cognitive development describe some students as deficient, “and I want us to really reflect on sort of the labeling that we use to say this student is deficient or not.”

“How is it that students (who) speak two languages are still language and cognitive development deficient… what does that mean?” De la Torres added. “I know some kids that are very street smart in the Pico neighborhood. They’re not going to do good on SAT, but they’re smart — they’re intelligent (and) we just need to reflect on that so we’re not bringing in a deficit-thinking model in terms of how we assess and how we articulate student needs.”

Other Dashboard Highlights:

– Looking at the district as a whole, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District didn’t have a single red score this year, according to the dashboard. SMMUSD also managed to secure the highest level in English and a green score in the area of mathematics.

– The district’s college and career readiness score declined 7.5% this year down to 54.3%, the dashboard reads, meaning the district is in the orange.

Graduation Rate increased 2.7% this year, bringing the district’s rate to 94.2% — a score good enough for green.

– State officials said many California schools are noting increases in their chronic absenteeism rates, which affect school funding and student success, but SMMUSD managed to maintain it’s chronic absenteeism rate from last year meaning the district secured a yellow in 2019.

– The percent of English Learners making adequate yearly progress of the ELPAC is “very high.”

– 87% of staff agreed or strongly agreed that they enjoyed working at their school.

To view the full 2019 California School Dashboard report for your local school or district, visit caschooldashboard.org/. Parents also have the option to download The Dashboard app, which is available on the iOS App Store, the Google Play Store and the Microsoft Store by searching for the term “CA Dashboard.”

brennon@smdp.com

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