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JUST IN: Parents can now compare LAUSD schools with new Open Data site

Esmeralda Fabián Romero | September 21, 2018

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*Updated Sept. 24

Knowing how well your neighborhood public schools are doing so you can choose the right one for your child has not been simple in Los Angeles.

But on Friday, LA Unified, one of the most complex school districts in the country, took a big step toward becoming more parent-friendly and transparent by launching its Open Data website. There’s information such as academic performance, graduation rates, and college-going rates for more than 1,000 district schools, as well as what each school offers, like AP classes and sports.

And yes, parents can now compare schools, up to three at a time. The district’s sought-after magnet schools are included, as well as its affiliated charter schools, but not independent charter schools. The district expects to add them later. More data will be included later this year, like test scores for specific student groups and budget information such as how much money is sent to underperforming schools. Data will be added in phases, based on input from parents and community members.

The project was approved in January by a 6-1 vote of the LA Unified school board on a resolution sponsored by board Vice President Nick Melvoin and Richard Vladovic, who said at the time that he hoped it would be a “change agent” that “shines a light on our perennially under-performing schools.”

The site, which is also available in Spanish, compiles district data from different official sources, such as the California School Dashboard, which has been criticized for not being parent-friendly, and other state data.

“I think there are a lot of issues with the dashboard,” board member Kelly Gonez said last spring. “There is no means for a family or the public to have a sense of what does it mean overall, is a school successful or does it have more work to do.”

The board also recently passed a resolution to create a new school assessment tool that will give schools a single rating, which will be coming separately but may be included in the new site to make it easier for parents and the public to find, a spokesperson for Melvoin said.

Up to three schools can be compared side by side on the site.

From the Open Data homepage, click on “School Search Tool,” which will take you to the unified enrollment site. At the top right, click on “Find a School.” Enter a school’s name, then in the middle of the page, click “compare.” In the school search bar at the top left of the page, type in another school’s name. If you want to compare a third school, click the “compare” button again and add another school’s name in the school search bar. Then at the bottom of the page, click “compare schools” from the pop-up bar.

Now parents can see things such as what programs the schools offer like dance or visual arts, what sports a school has, which after-school programs they offer, AP courses for high schools, English reclassification rates, special education services, if there are magnet or dual language programs, and what percentage of students feel safe at school.

“Families and communities help build our students’ success, and this tool will help them engage in their children’s education,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a news release. “Increasing transparency will benefit everyone involved in our schools, from students and families, to educators and community members.”

Melvoin added, “Our parents, employees, and community members deserve access to transparent, user-friendly information that promotes shared facts we can all agree on.”

Vladovic noted how the new site can not only be useful for parents and community members but also for district officials. “I supported this measure as I want both our employees and our parents to have access to information to make informed decisions when selecting schools and for targeting aid to our schools in need.”

Throughout the year, district officials met with community organizations and members of the Partnership for Equitable Access to Public Schools in Los Angeles, called the PEAPS-LA coalition, for input on the development of the Open Data site to make it as useful as possible for parents. On Monday, the coalition called on the district “to ensure that future versions of the School Search tool and the parent outreach associated with it are more accessible and inclusive.” 

“The School Search Tool is an improvement for parents navigating a complex system for what should be a simple step: choosing high-quality schools for their children. There is much more work to be done to create more equity in the application and enrollment process. Let’s think of this as a first and important step,” Vanessa Aramayo, executive director of the Alliance for a Better Community, said in a statement released Monday by the PEAPS- LA coalition.

“The new school search tool will be helpful for families,” said Adriana Ochoa, a member of the PEAPS-LA Parent Council. “While it is much better than what we had in the past, parents could have been included in a more meaningful way as the tool was being designed. For this tool to be successful, parents need to be better engaged so that the tool reflects the needs of families as they try to find the best options for their children.”
Seth Litt, executive director of Parent Revolution and a member of PEAPS- LA, said, “All district application and enrollment systems should reduce barriers for families, especially those from historically underserved communities, as they seek to find information on all of their public school options, both district and charter, so that they can apply to and enroll in the public schools that are best for their children.”

Here’s a sample of the school accountability data on the new site:

  • Students’ academic performance on state English and math tests for the last three years and how they compare to the state student average, to the district as a whole, and to other schools
  • Student enrollment by grade and by school
  • Student attendance
  • Suspension rates
  • Dropout rates
  • Four-year cohort graduation rate for the district and by school
  • Graduation rates of students who met admission requirements for the state’s four-year universities (Cal State University and University of California schools)
  • District and school level statistics on measures that show the percentage of students who go to college, persist in college from their freshman to sophomore year, and graduate from college.

There are video tutorials to help navigate the Open Data portal. To get there click, “Need more help?” at the bottom left corner of the homepage. The help desk is also available to provide assistance and address questions; call 213-481-3300 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.

*This article has been updated to add comments by the PEAPS-LA coalition members and the Alliance for a Better Community.

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