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Q&A on California’s new school rating system that you can start using today

Mike Szymanski | March 15, 2017

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From the state dashboard.

California’s new school accountability report, or Dashboard, was launched Wednesday morning by the state Board of Education, and it’s supposed to more accurately represent the success and progress of California public schools.

But it’s in beta-test mode right now, according to the state officials launching the Dashboard. For now, it’s only available in English and Spanish, with a video explaining the report. Because it is a field test, the Dashboard is expected to change.

Here are a few tips on how to navigate it and questions you might have.

  • Where is the school’s overall score?

There isn’t one. The grid system is supposed to show a more complete picture of a school, not focusing on just one aspect, such as test scores. The grading is based on five colors, with blue being the best and red being the worst.

  • What is in this report and how is it different?

The report card doesn’t cover only test scores. It includes demographic information, school safety and climate for learning, school completion, class size, teacher and staff information, curriculum and instruction, postsecondary preparation, and fiscal and expenditure data. It has a school’s most recent test scores but also shows whether there’s been improvement or not.

  • Why is the state developing a new school scorecard?

It has been three years since the API (Academic Performance Index) was used to rank schools in the state, and under state law all public schools are required to prepare school report cards and make them available to the public. Each school site is required to make the report available to parents and use it as a tool to communicate the school’s progress toward achieving goals in both academic achievement and the well-being and safety of students at the school site.

Federal laws also required school accountability scores, but that was repealed by the U.S. Senate recently.

  • What if I am color blind or it’s printed out in black and white?

Each of the scores is also listed in filled-out pie charts, so if a Dashboard rating is printed out in black-and-white, it’s easy to show the rank. A blue (great) rating will have all the pies filled in, while green (good) will have only four filled in.

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  • It seems like some data and links are missing.

Because there needs to be a two-year comparison to show improvement, Chronic Absenteeism and College Readiness are not yet included on the charts and will show up as “N/A” or not available. Also, some links to the additional data or more deep-dive reports have not yet been added.

If there are fewer than 30 students in any particular sub-group, such as “Two or More Races” or “Foster Youth,” then an asterisk or “N/A” will show up and no specific ranking will be given.

  • Is this going to change?

It is likely that some changes and tweaks will be made to the Dashboard. Some community groups have already offered input into it and showed ways of offering a one- or two-color overall ranking of a school, so comparisons can be made quickly.

It is, however, unlikely that the state Board of Education will adopt a single score for each school site. The school report cards will be updated by Feb. 1 every year.

  • Where can I offer suggestions, complaints, input?

Send concerns, ideas, suggestions or problems directly to the state at

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