Sonoma Valley schools graded on new state Dashboard

Accessing the School Dashboard

Info box: Parents can learn more about the Dashboard at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/cm/. Sonoma Valley school specific info can be viewed at www.caschooldashboard.org.

Sonoma Valley parents and educators have a new online tool that allows them to see how their school – and the district as a whole – is doing in areas ranging from standardized test scores and graduation rates to parent engagement, suspension rates and career and college readiness.

The new School Dashboard – visit caschooldashboard.org – provides district and school performance information that goes beyond what was previously available.

The site evaluates schools using five grading levels, represented on the site by colors: very high (blue), high (green), medium (yellow), low (orange) and very low (red).

An examination of the dashboard results for Sonoma Valley public schools, released on Wednesday, finds overall performance indicators ranging from high, medium to low.

The ratings are based on both the most recent year’s performance (called “status” on the site) and the difference between this year’s and the prior year’s data (called “change”). The five change levels are: increased significantly, increased, maintained, declined and declined significantly.

Sonoma Valley’s lowest performance results – a “red” – were in suspension rates at the high school. The academic progress of English language learners received an “low” rating and the district received a “medium” rating for its English and math scores in grades 3rd through 8th. No academic ratings were available yet for Sonoma Valley High, but it received a “high” rating for its graduation rates.

A press release from the district listed new initiatives in the works to address weak areas including the adoption of new language arts curriculums and the exploration of restorative justice practices at SVHS.

The Dashboard site was publically launched on Wednesday. School districts across the state have had access for the past several weeks.

“We like it,” said Sonoma Valley Unified School District Superintendant Louann Carlomagno. “A range of data gives a more complete picture of how we are doing and, in particular, how we are serving our diverse student population.”

The new system replaces the Academic Performance Index (API), which California phased out in 2014. The API relied on test scores to produce a single number that some said offered a limited view of school performance.

The new system grades on a curve which paints a far rosier picture for California schools than past measurements, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times. The majority of schools across the state ranked “high” or “very high” for graduation and suspension rates. Nearly 80 percent of schools serving grades 3rd through 8th are ranked as medium- to high-performing in the new ratings. In state testing last year, according to the Times, the majority of students at those same schools failed to reach English and math standards.

“The shift in outlook is intentional,” wrote LA Times reporters Joy Resmovits and Sandra Poindexter in their March 16 story, “California’s New Education Ratings Tool Paint a Far Rosier Picture Than in the Past.” “The Dashboard reflects a new, more holistic approach to evaluating schools, one that does not see test scores as the be all and end all. It also emphasizes progress and so heaps praise on schools that do poorly but see significant score increases from one year to the next.”

County Superintendent of Schools Steve Herrington urged parents and educators to take the time to get to know the basics of the new system. He compared the new system to a student’s report card.

Accessing the School Dashboard

Info box: Parents can learn more about the Dashboard at www.cde.ca.gov/ta/ac/cm/. Sonoma Valley school specific info can be viewed at www.caschooldashboard.org.

“A student’s success at school can’t be summed up with just one number,” he said. “That’s why good report cards track a student’s growth across all subjects as well as her social/emotional and physical progress. Likewise, the California School Dashboard tracks a school or district’s performance across a range of measures so we can know where the school is doing well and where it might need more help.”

The Dashboard is part of the state’s new accountability system that supports the performance goals that all school districts set in their annually updated Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs).

“Rather than encouraging comparisons between districts, it is designed to promote deeper analysis and self-reflection within districts,” according to a statement from the Sonoma County Office of Education announcing the Dashboard.

“The Dashboard will be a powerful tool for schools and districts in identifying their successful programs so they can put more resources toward them in the future,” said Herrington in the release. “It will also help identify programs that aren’t working so well or student groups that need more support.”

The Dashboard offers reports on individual schools as well as districts. Those results are also available at caschooldashboard.org.

A unique feature of the new site is Five-by-Five Placement Reports which enable a parent to use an “at a glance” display to compare different schools or districts.

In some cases, the most current information available for a performance indicator is one or two years old, pointed out Carlomagno. Standardized test scores are from the 2015-16 school year.

“It is important to consider this when viewing each school’s performance levels,” she stressed.

SVUSD will be hosting public forums to discuss both the Dashboard results and broader district issues from 7 to 8 p.m. on April 4 at Sonoma Valley High School, and on April 5 at Altimira Middle School. Information on the Dashboard will also be presented at the school board meeting in the community meeting room at 177 First St. W. on April 11.

Watch a video about the new School Dashboard below

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.