By DILAN PATEL
As opposed to a one-number API score that determines a school’s performance, all schools in California have switched to the new California Dashboard, in which different colors in pie graphs represent a school’s performance level.
The new system highlights multiple pie charts on different aspects of the school: graduation rate, suspension rate, college/career, English language arts, math and English learner progress. There are six main charts for each school, and a color is designated to each of the categories—from red, representing the lowest performance, to blue, representing the highest. (Previously every school in California received a one-number score, from 200 to 1000, based on performance from each score mainly from standardized test scores.)
Graphs on California Dashboard also show sub-charts for each subgroup at the school, such as race or socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. Color is given to each chart unless fewer than 11 students are in the category.
“The dashboard is the result of hundreds of meetings with parents/caregivers, teachers, students and community members who provided feedback and suggestions on the school accountability system,” says Suzie DePrez, Carmel Unified School District’s chief academic officer. “A consistent piece of feedback was that reducing the multiple measures to a single number would leave out information that is important to many parents/caregivers and stakeholders. It may seem complicated at first because it is fundamentally different from the previous API system.”
The dashboard takes a few different things into account when assigning colors to each graph. It combines the current year’s results to the previous year’s results. For example, a school can score very high in the current year, which would normally mean it would receive a blue color, but if it had declined from the previous year, then it would move down to a lower level. There could potentially be a drawback to the new system because if a school is already high above the state average, there is nowhere to go except down or to stay the same. All the scores are based on the state average, so if the state average increases and the schools stay the same, then the schools color changes to a lower color.
Another fault in the evaluative system showed up when a number of CHS juniors were unable to submit their state English language arts portion of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test.
“The window to submit the SBAC tests last year was closed,” says CHS assistant principal Craig Tuana. “We asked to reopen it for [CHS students], but they refused to reopen it. I think we had about 20 students who did not complete all the SBAC testing.”
This had a dramatic effect on Carmel’s English language arts score, which declined 20.4 points from the previous year. Although CHS is still well above average, the color changed from blue to green in that section. Because of this, the data from last year cannot be taken at face value.
“Until we have this year’s data to see whether the downward trend continues, it is hard to know whether there is something we should be doing differently in our curriculum, instruction and assessment to better prepare students,” says Barbara Steinberg, one of the 11th grade English teachers at CHS.
Because the California Dashboard is only in its second year, there are definitely aspects of the system that can be changed or improved in the future.