CREDIT: Alison Yin / EdSource
Fourth/fifth grader combination class at Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, May 17, 2017.

This week the state is launching an online report card that identifies district and school performance in an effort to better help all young Californians succeed.

While user-friendly design improvements are in the works, the fall 2017 California School Dashboard upgrades the state’s antiquated Academic Performance Index, which was based exclusively on standardized tests. To better identify students who are succeeding and those who need help, the dashboard includes five additional measures: graduation and suspension rates, college and career readiness, English learner progress and chronic absenteeism. In turn, schools and districts can use this information to better refine their strategies to support and accelerate learning.

Michael Kirst, State Board of Education president

The dashboard moves California one step closer to completing a sweeping overhaul of public education aimed at better preparing our students for the challenges of our rapidly changing world. Already, we are seeing promising signs of progress. California’s high school graduation rate is at an all-time high, as is the number of graduates accepted into the University of California and California State University. In addition, suspension rates have declined for the fifth year in a row, meaning more students are spending more time in the classroom learning.

However, it will come as no surprise to educators, parents and stakeholders that the new dashboard shows we have a lot of work to do. By design, the dashboard shines a light on inequities teachers see in classrooms every day. Students whose lives are impacted by poverty, disability and homelessness struggle to succeed, as do students in many urban school districts. Many are students of color and English learners. What we do with this information is critical.

Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction

With the detailed information in the dashboard, we have a rare opportunity to turn data into direct action. The state is now able to identify specific challenges school districts are facing and is committed to providing assistance rather than the sanctions of the past. Along with the dashboard, we are rolling out a new statewide system of support for all districts, and targeted resources for those struggling to lift the performance of certain student groups. Districts will have access to the state’s deep pool of public school experts and educators who have been in the classroom and know how to best address tough issues.

Certainly the road ahead won’t be perfectly smooth or easy. The single-number rating system we all once knew often masked inequities that are revealed in the dashboard. A school that previously had high rankings may see different results now due to one or more groups of students that are struggling to succeed.

We began to address the needs of these students with the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which gives districts flexibility to use state funds and extra money to support low-income students, foster youth and English language learners. The dashboard builds on this accountability system by delivering useable data to help us better align local resources to needs. Knowing our system’s strengths and weaknesses, and tapping into our state’s incredible network of experts, will help us accelerate this work so every student has the opportunity to succeed in college, the workplace and life.


Michael Kirst is president of the State Board of Education and Tom Torlakson is the state superintendent of public instruction.

The opinions expressed in this commentary represent those of the author. EdSource welcomes commentaries representing diverse points of view. If you would like to submit a commentary, we encourage you to review our guidelines and contact us.

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  1. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    I remember not so long ago here in San Francisco school leaders adopted the mantra of data-driven reform. They dropped that when it became clear statistics were not in their favor. The dashboard is a bromide intended to color over the abysmal performance of California’s public schools rated 41st in the nation by Education Week, a state with the 8th largest economy in the world. Really, I don’t know who the authors are kidding.

  2. JudiAU 2 years ago2 years ago

    Our charter school offers weekly “academies” for children struggling with ELA or math. This is distinct from pull out for ESL purposes. We still have a terrible achievement gap but it is far smaller than most public schools.

  3. FloydThursby 2 years ago2 years ago

    I'm on the school site council at a school with a horrible achievement gap. There is language everywhere about the achievement gap and no one wants to do anything. Organize volunteer tutors, no go. Reach out to convince failing students to go? Violates privacy. Tutors, too risky. It's all status quo. They put all sorts of language in about it, but are doing nothing that hasn't already been … Read More

    I’m on the school site council at a school with a horrible achievement gap. There is language everywhere about the achievement gap and no one wants to do anything. Organize volunteer tutors, no go. Reach out to convince failing students to go? Violates privacy. Tutors, too risky.
    It’s all status quo. They put all sorts of language in about it, but are doing nothing that hasn’t already been tried and failed. San Francisco has one of the worst achievement gaps in the state, atrocious, but we are not requiring every kid with low test scores to go to after school or Saturday tutoring. We’re just lecturing everyone and implying there are hidden racists causing the problem.
    No one talks about the fact that some kids study way more than others, some get tutoring and support, etc. They talk as if the gap is all happening inside the classroom. The gap happens at home. Some kids have educated parents who help them and tutor them and make sure they study long hours. Other kids have uneducated parents who don’t get mad if they see Cs, and Cs are what Ds used to be with grade inflation, don’t require their kids to read and study, and just let kids do whatever they want with no support.
    The only way to fix it is tutoring, parent education and extreme focus on the achievement gap as the #1 issue of inequality in America. These are the facts, and they are undisputed.