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Changes coming to California School Dashboard 

California’s State Board of Education reviewed changes to the state’s school accountability system at its Sept. 6 meeting, previewing a more user-friendly version of the California School Dashboard, approving the Chronic Absenteeism indicator and adding assessment criteria to the College/Career Readiness indicator. Also known simply as the Dashboard, the state’s online platform reports school, district and student group performance based on test scores and other factors including suspensions and graduation rates.

The initial version, launched in 2017, generated criticism due to confusing and at times overwhelming amounts of information on the Dashboard. In response, Gov. Jerry Brown, allocated $300,000 and the California Department of Education hired a consulting firm to retool the platform. The new look, unveiled last week, has received support from users and the State Board.

With the goal of making the Dashboard more streamlined and easier to navigate and understand, the new version pared down the number of pages on the site by 80 percent according to EdSource. Similarly, confusing pie icons have been removed and replaced by a simpler graphic of a color-coded gauge, much like a speedometer, with an arrow pointing to a color indicating one of five levels of achievement. Other changes include a way to compare overall school or district test scores with state averages, mobile friendly design and translation of academic terms into Spanish.

Also at the Sept. 6 meeting, the SBE voted to add a Chronic Absenteeism indicator to the Dashboard. Chronic absenteeism will measure the number of K-8 students who miss 10 percent or more of school each year, regardless of whether the absences are excused or not. The exclusion of high school grades in the metric generated debate, with some education advocates stressing the importance of using high school abseentism data as a way to direct more resources to underperforming schools and districts. The CDE countered that since chronic absence data is collected at the end of the year it comes too late to flag schools in need of help. Further, CDE has said the College/Career Readiness indicator already provides a reliable measure of high school student’s involvement in school.

That indicator added two more criteria last week, which also generated debate. College/Career Readiness can now include students who have received the State Seal of Biliteracy (proficiency in speaking, reading and writing in at least one foreign language, according to a set of existing criteria set by the state). Students who complete military leadership training such as the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps can also be counted as “prepared” if they meet additional criteria on their Smarter Balanced assessments. However, State Board members disagreed on how best to define career/college preparation and whether they were separate categories to prepare for, or a unified benchmark. For now, the issue remains unresolved. The new version of the Dashboard, including the new arrow gauge icon for performance, is scheduled to launch in December.