Two weeks ago, the state unveiled publicly the first iteration of the new CA School Dashboard, providing student performance data and finally replacing the old Academic Performance Index (API), which was last issued for 2012-2013. Data geeks rejoice!
The Good, Bad, and Ugly
The new CA Dashboard is multi-measure and includes not only academic indicators (i.e. SBAC, grad rates) but also indicators of student climate (i.e. suspension rates). That’s useful for providing a more comprehensive picture of schools. Happily, the new CA system also considers growth, not just absolute performance (take note, Betsy DeVos!). Importantly, it also makes subgroup performance more visible – critical to understand if a school is helping to close the achievement gap for historically underserved populations.
These are all important improvements. But it’s not user-friendly. Unlike the old API, which boiled down to a single number plus two decile rankings, there is no single summary score and no way to easily compare against other schools in the dashboard. For each indicator, you need to look at the additional “Five by Five Placement Grid Reports” to understand why the school received the color coding it did. Some of the data currently in the dashboard is old while other data points are missing. And the Dashboard is only offered in English and is not sortable / printable / downloadable. Talk about jumping through hurdles for anyone (particularly families) who want to use this tool to figure out how a school is doing.
*Although the CDE website doesn’t allow comparisons, EdSource published an awesome tool to enable easy comparison of schools and districts on each indicator.
How are Oakland schools doing?
With the addition of all climate metrics plus growth, I wondered how Oakland schools are rated in the new system compared to our rankings under the old API system. I had to make some assumptions: I converted the API decile rankings into 5 colored tiers and took a straight average of all the metrics to come up with single summary color for each school in the new system.**
** API rankings to color conversion: Deciles 1-2 = red, 3-4 = orange, 5-6 = yellow, 7-8 = green, 9-10 = blue. New Dashboard indicators to summary color conversion: I converted the color for each indicator into a numerical value (red=1; blue=5), calculated a simple average across all the indicators available for each school, and translated that average back into the corresponding color. Note that many indicators (such as college readiness) were not available in this first roll-out, and school tiers might change with the inclusion of this data in the fall.
- A different distribution: Under the old system, Oakland has a depressing number and proportion of schools that were in the lowest two deciles – a left-tilting ski slope. Under this new system, we seem to have fewer terrible schools, more mediocre and fair schools, and fewer excellent schools – more like a bell curve. This is not surprising since the cutpoints for the new system were designed to create a curve.
- Majority still unacceptable: Even with the new system scores across multiple measures, almost 60% of Oakland schools are still in the bottom two tiers (i.e. “red” and “orange” schools) – not that different from the API-era rankings.
- Excellence in short supply: In the new system, some schools that historically scored well on the API don’t do quite as well – due to lack of growth, poor subgroup performance, or lower climate scores.
The bottom line: we have a lot of work to do to create the school system that our kids deserve!
Next time: The Power of the 5x5 and Did schools change their colors?
My name is Carrie Chan, and I’m Educate78’s newest staff member. I joined the organization as an Analyst, and I LOVE data (feel free to call me a data geek). As a former OUSD student, I also care a lot about Oakland public schools. That is why I am so excited about this new blog series, “Crunched!” which will take a data-driven approach to important, relevant questions facing Oakland public schools. Please email me with ideas or requests.
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