State board approves final pieces of its new school accountability system

The state’s new school accountability and improvement system now has a timeframe for its public debut — and an official name.

Set to be unveiled in late February or March, the California School Dashboard will provide “a wealth of new information to help parents, educators, and the public evaluate schools and districts, identify strengths and weaknesses, and provide targeted assistance,” according to a news release issued Wednesday by the state Department of Education.

An image of colored pencilsWe mentioned this was coming back in September. But the California Board of Education approved the final pieces of the new dashboard this week, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson says it should prove far more useful to parents and the public than the now-defunct Academic Performance Index, which assigned triple-digit scores based largely on test scores.

“This is another example of California’s national leadership,” Torlakson said. “Our students, our schools and our districts will benefit by having so much readily available information about the performance of schools and districts in the elements needed to create a successful, positive learning environment.”

The state board had previously OK’d performance standards for four dashboard indicators — readiness for college and careers, graduation rates, progress made by English learners and suspension rates. It had also approved tools to measure basic conditions at schools, school climates, coordination of services for foster youth, and coordination of services for expelled youth.

Now the board has added performance standards for the Academic Indicator, which includes student results on state standards tests in English and math.

Officials say schools and districts will be rated on how close student test scores are to “Level 3,” which is apparently the bar for demonstrating the knowledge and skills associated with college content readiness. Scores will be based on how each school or district performed overall, as well as how much a school or district improved or declined over a three-year period.

After they’ve been rated based on a combination of these factors, each school will be assigned one of five color-coded performance levels. Blue is best, followed by green, yellow, orange and red.

“This completes the final pieces of a groundbreaking system to help the public better understand what is going on in our schools,” state Board of Education President Mike Kirst said in the news release. “I look forward to the launch of the California School Dashboard later this year, but this is just the beginning.”

Sure enough, additional changes are planned to enhance the dashboard for the 2017-18 school year, when it becomes fully operational.