The second version of a website meant to give parents, students and educators access to valuable school and district data launched this week, providing users with the opportunity to compare and consider Turlock Unified School District achievement ratings in several key categories.
The California Department of Education and the State Board of Education originally created what is known as the Dashboard in 2017 as a key component of the state’s five-year overhaul of its school accountability system. The site displays statewide data based on status (how each school or district performed) and change (how much they have improved or declined over time), with performance levels indicated by color ranging from red as the lowest and blue as the highest. The Dashboard also breaks down information by student group (low-income, English learner, foster youth, etc.) to help pinpoint and address achievement gaps.
This year, the Dashboard includes new metrics for evaluating school and district performance and a new, user-friendly look that makes complex data easier to understand. The Dashboard is now fully accessible on smart phones and tablets, is easier to navigate, has improved graphics and also has the most current data available, including 2018 test scores and graduation rates.
“The Dashboard helps schools identify strengths and weaknesses in many different areas that measure success,” State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said. “I urge educators, parents and communities to turn this data into positive action by using it to target resources where improvement is needed and to share practices where success is demonstrated.”
Schools and districts throughout the state receive ratings for six achievement metrics, including student test scores in math and English language arts, graduation rates and suspension rates. Two new metrics were added to the 2018 Dashboard: chronic absenteeism and students’ readiness for college and careers.
The two main purposes of the Dashboard are to help at the local level as well as indicate at the state level which districts can receive aid. The Dashboard makes it easier for communities identify strengths and challenges in their local districts, and align resources to support students who are struggling academically. The indicators also determine which districts are eligible for tailored assistance through the State System of Support, a connected network of agencies throughout California.
Districts with one or more student groups in the “red” on two metrics are eligible for state help. Last year, 228 districts were eligible for state assistance, while this year, with the Dashboard’s added metrics and other changes, 374 districts qualify for specialized assistance.
According to its performance overview on Dashboard, TUSD has met standards on other performance metrics like parent engagement and implementation of academic standards, and its graduation rate as well as chronic absenteeism both received a rating of “green,” or one step below the highest level “blue.” The District’s suspension rate and performance in English and math, however, received a rating of “orange,” or one step above the lowest level “red.” In college readiness, TUSD is performing in the middle with a rating of “yellow.”
According to TUSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Heidi Lawler, the Dashboard and its ratings for the District as a whole, as well as each individual school site, will come in handy for stakeholders involved in determining goals and spending priorities for the annual Local Control and Accountability Plan.
“Initially, TUSD administration will review general trends in all areas addressed through the Dashboard,” Lawler said. “Following the initial review, District site and administrators will analyze specific areas of growth, as well as those of need, and adjust programs and supports to ensure that we implement systems to sustain continuous improvement through best practices and effective interventions.”
The Dashboard’s new, easy-to-read reports on multiple measures of TUSD’s success will help both parents and community members better understand the needs of the District, Lawler added.
“Reviewing the various measures, parent and community members will increase understanding of TUSD’s need to ensure that all students receive equitable access to the instruction and interventions necessary to meet or exceed standards in a safe and secure environment that supports student learning,” she said.
Other strengths within TUSD that Dashboard helps to highlight include its highly-qualified teachers, standards-aligned instructional materials and safe, secure schools. The District’s successes have come with its fair share of challenges, however, like meeting the needs of students in different subgroups. For example, Lawler said, students with disabilities who may have difficulty with grade level standards.
The Dashboard will allow for TUSD to address some of these challenges while providing the chance for parents to better understand their child’s school district. Moving forward, Lawler hopes the trend of technology will continue to better connect the public with TUSD and encourage even more parent involvement.
“Technology, like interactive websites, online surveys and social media, has provided increased opportunities for communication between districts and parents,” she said. “While using technology to enhance communication is beneficial, TUSD continues to strive for strong parent engagement in all aspects of our students’ educational experiences.”
To explore the Dashboard, visit www.caschooldashboard.org.