California School Dashboard: Comparison of Bay Area Districts and Schools

In 2017, California adopted a new School Dashboard that provides online information about how schools are performing on state and local indicators of its accountability system. According to the California Department of Education, “the Dashboard was created to give parents and the public a better idea of what is happening in our schools and districts and to identify districts and schools that need extra help. The Dashboard is a component of the Local Control Funding Formula passed in 2013 that significantly changed how California provides funding to public school and hold local educational agencies accountable for student performance.”

The six state indicators include: Assessments for English Language Arts (ELA) and Math, English Learner progress, chronic absenteeism, graduation rate, suspension rate, and college/career readiness. Each indicator receives one of five color-coded performance levels based on how current performance compares to past performance: blue (highest performance), green, yellow, orange, and red (lowest performance).

At the district level, there are local indicators that are included as priority areas. These include basic services, implementation of state academic standards, parent engagement, and local climate survey. Ratings indicate if the indicator is met, not met, or not met for two or more years.

The Dashboard may be accessed at There is an online tutorial to help you get started. I began my search with “Oakland Unified” and selected the Oakland Unified report from the list of schools. The district report includes several tabs: Equity Report, Status and Change Report, Detailed Report, and Student Group Report. I chose to review the Equity Report.

The Oakland Unified (OUSD) Equity Report did not include data for chronic absenteeism or college/career. The ELA and Math assessment indicators were orange or low performing. When you click on the indicator, it will show you how student groups, such as foster, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and Hispanic students, perform on the assessment. In ELA and Math, of the 13 student group categories, nine were either red (very low performance) or orange (low performance).

OUSD suspension rates, English Learner progress, and graduation rates were rated as yellow or in the middle of the performance scale. Among suspension rates, six of the 13 student categories were in the red (very low) or orange (low) category. Homeless youth, foster, students with disabilities, and African American students experienced very high suspension rates. Among graduation rates, five of the nine student categories were in the red or orange. English Learners (62.9%), foster youth (50%), homeless students (60.4%), and students with disabilities (56.1%) all have very low graduation rates.

The other important feature of the School Dashboard is the ability to review data at the school-site level. A quick search among schools indicates the stark inequities within the district. Montclair Elementary in the Oakland Hills rates suspensions, ELA, and Math assessment at the highest performance level (blue) and do not report data for English Learner progress. At Brookfield Elementary in East Oakland, suspension rates, English Learner progress, and ELA proficiency were at the lowest performance rates (red) while Math assessment was in yellow, or in the middle of the performance levels.  

In nearby West Contra Costa Unified (WCCUSD), there are similar trends. English Learner progress, ELA, and Math assessments are low performing or in the orange category. For eight of the 12 student groups, ELA proficiency is red or orange. And, for Math seven of the 12 student groups are at low or very low proficiency. In both categories the students with low assessments are similar-those that are socioeconomically disadvantaged, homeless, students with disabilities, foster youth, English Learners, and African American students.

As a district, suspension rates are at the mid-level performance. There has been declines in suspensions over the years. However, for six of the 13 student groups rates remain high or very high. A bright spot for WCCUSD is its graduation rates, which are at the green level. However, among English Learners, Students with Disabilities, and homeless students, graduation rates are in the red or orange categories, indicating very low or low performance, respectively.

Again, a search by individual schools within the district demonstrates extreme inequities. Kensington Elementary, located in an affluent community, has suspension rates, English Learner progress, ELA and Math assessment proficiency in the blue or  highest performance category. Stege Elementary, in a lower income neighborhood, has suspension rates and ELA proficiency at the red or lowest performance level while English Learner progress and Math proficiency are in the orange or low performance level.

As a parent, I’m often confused when there are changes to school assessments. Yet, in reviewing and using California’s new system, I do find the data more useful and informative than the former Academic Performance Index (API) system. The California Dashboard lists each indicator independently, shows performance for various student groups, and provides an easy online portal to view the results. It would be nice to be able to select several schools and compare them on one screen when making a decision about local schools. However, the existing features, robust information, and ability to use Google translate for nearly every language, makes the Dashboard an important resource to understand student success. What hasn’t changed among the rating systems, is the deep inequities that exist between districts and schools across the state.

What do you think?

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Raquel F. Donoso

Raquel F. Donoso

Raquel F. Donoso is a parent, advocate, writer, and results-driven leader. Her mission to increase educational equity for students began when she became a single mother in college. Having first-hand knowledge of the barriers and obstacles low-income, single-parent families experience, she dedicated her life to increasing opportunities for other families like hers. With 20-years of experience in the social sector, she founded Just Results Consulting, a mission-driven firm that works to increase opportunities for children, youth, and families. Prior to JR, she directed the Mission Promise Neighborhood, a $30M federally funded initiative to create a cradle to college to career pipeline in San Francisco and was CEO of the Latino Community Foundation. Raquel earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from UCLA and is currently completing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from UC, Davis. Her older son is a graduate of Clark University, and her younger son is a Junior at Middle College in West Contra Costa.

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