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A Quick Communication Guide for the NEW California School Dashboard

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March 30th, 2017

Educators, families and community stakeholders across California: the School Dashboard is finally here!

With this, of course, will come plenty of questions and concerns about this new way of looking at performance in our schools and districts. Not to mention, how to make sense of this information now being displayed in a series of reports, with new colors, graphics and descriptions.

Check out the resources below to help you clarify, communicate and contextualize these changes in correspondence with your teams and families:


The Annual Performance Index (API) is no more. Now, it’s all about multiple measures or multiple data points. Check out this brief Overview of the California School Dashboard video from the California Department of Education (CDE) equating the Dashboard to students’ report cards. It offers simple examples of how the color-coded Status and Change descriptions will work in practice.


The California School Dashboard web page features this handy one-page Reference Guide laid over a visual of a sample district Dashboard report.

CDE created a super-friendly and visual Getting to Know the California School Dashboard in English and Spanish explaining the 10 state and local indicators, plus the available reports for stakeholders. They have also prepared a sample parent letter in English and various other languages.

Also, EdSource has developed a new tool using the California School Dashboard data that allows users to compare schools’ performance across the five state indicators—Suspension, English Learner Progress, English Test Scores, Math Test Scores, and High School Graduation Rate.


The School Dashboard is not only a new look for performance in California’s schools and districts, but will also require new ways of looking at this data.

Status and Change are the focus now. Each indicator will display a color-coded graphic about performance, as well as how that performance has increased or decreased in the last year to better understand the progress in each area.

Not all data points are the same. This is especially true when it comes to growth or change over time. For example, graduation rates on the rise are good, but that’s not true of suspensions or chronic absenteeism.

Interact with the data. The Dashboard is designed for clicking and focusing in on specific indicators, specific performance levels, and specific student group performance.

Consider relationships between the indicators. Multiple measures of data can be more overwhelming and complex to decipher, but these different data sets and growth reports allow stakeholders to ask more relevant and interesting questions than ever before about how performance in one area affects another, and perhaps how to best direct our district and school resources.

Say something. Your schools, districts and LEAs need feedback both to improve and to include in their Narrative reports accompanying the Dashboard data for important context about unique circumstances or improvement efforts.

The School Dashboard is now live, but it’s not yet complete. Local indicators, Chronic Absenteeism and College and Career Readiness data will not be available until 2017-18 as—in the case of the latter—the CDE continues to finalize the exact calculations to be used and solicit feedback from various stakeholders.

Local indicators, which will be based on data collected by districts and schools, will provide more cursory information (whether they are Met, Not Met, or Not Met for Two or More Years) as a starting point, though there are calls for site leaders to take greater ownership over these indicators. Parent Engagement and Local Climate Surveys are examples; the push is to go beyond mere collection of this data and toward more deeper analysis and intervention where appropriate.

These also illustrate the unique challenge that California and other states across the nation face ahead with empowering districts and schools to make autonomous decisions while at the same time holding them accountable so that the opportunities for all our children are as equitable as possible.


Illuminate Education is a provider of educational technology and services offering innovative data, assessment and student information solutions. Serving K-12 schools, our cloud-based software and services currently assist more than 1,600 school districts in promoting student achievement and success.  We offer professional learning workshops and consultation as well.

Ready to discover your one-stop shop for your district’s educational needs? Let’s talk.

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