California School Dashboard PrinciplesDashboard principles adopted by the State Board of Education.
Prior to reviewing the principles, it is important to note the purpose of the California School Dashboard (Dashboard), which is to provide parents and educators with meaningful information on school and district progress so they can participate in decisions to improve student learning.
The following list of principles were adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) in November 2022 to use as an anchor when evaluating future changes and additions to the state and local indicators reported on the Dashboard:
Principle 1: Focuses on elements that express the commitment to a well-rounded, well-supported education and makes space for what is valued locally
California’s accountability system reflects a broad set of indicators that measure student educational opportunities and outcomes. These indicators leverage data in three areas: 1) Academic Performance, 2) Academic Engagement, and 3) Conditions and Climate. The system is designed to adapt as priorities evolve and add new meaningful information to the Dashboard and remove data that may no longer be relevant.
Principle 2: Reports opportunity and performance gaps among student groups through the Equity Report that is available for each state indicator
California’s Dashboard focuses on equity through the lens of 13 student groups, whose performance is reported separately if the group has at least 11 students. California in turn uses differences in performance to identify districts and schools for support and improvement initiatives on one hand, and for recognition on the other. In particular, the Dashboard identifies strengths, challenges, and areas in need of improvement for districts, schools, and student groups. The data reported on the Dashboard then helps determine where assistance is needed to close opportunity and performance gaps.
Principle 3: Reports each indicator separately
Rather than combining all indicators into a single, summative result, California uses multiple measures to determine school and district performance. During the development of the Dashboard, a consistent piece of feedback was that reducing the multiple measures to a single number would leave out information that is important to many parents/caregivers and education partners. Reporting indicators separately provides a more complete picture of how schools are meeting the needs of the students they serve.
Principle 4: Values each indicator equally
The Dashboard equally values all indicators. In the past, test scores were often the only measure of student success. But schools are more than students’ test scores. Looking at more data – and more meaningful information – helps more precisely identify a district or school’s strengths and weaknesses and highlights performance gaps between groups of learners. This reporting ensures that each academic and non-academic indicator is recognized as an equally important educational input or outcome.
Principle 5: Values high performance and growth equally
California equally weights status (current year) and change (difference from prior year), distinguishing districts, schools, and student groups showing significant growth as well as strong performance. This approach to measuring school performance recognizes and supports continuous improvement to higher performance, as all districts, schools, and student groups are expected to improve. California’s multiple measures accountability system uses percentile distributions based on actual district and school performance to create a five-by-five grid that provides 25 results that combine status and change to make an overall determination for each indicator.
Principle 6: Reports transparently and comprehensively at the state, district, school, and student group levels
California’s accountability system produces a comprehensive picture of student group, school, district, and state performance by including, to the greatest extent possible, the performance of all students. Indicators are broadly applicable to all or specific student groups, which allows indicators to be reported for groups, schools, and districts with at least 11 students. The system provides transparency through the reporting of an overall determination for student groups of 30 students or more (15 or more for foster or homeless students).
Principle 7: Promotes effective visualization, clear communication, and thorough documentation
The California School Dashboard leverages powerful visual techniques to show performance and progress information quickly, clearly, and with universal accessibility. The Dashboard website is purposefully designed to be parent-friendly. Along with the system’s technical manual, the website is translated into the top languages spoken by families in California, to support the public use of the system. With the input of educational partners and community members, California’s system leverages colors and the image of a gauge to communicate how a district, school, or student group is performing. For additional detail, California’s accountability system is documented through an extensive technical manual that provides the system’s technical and policy details, including data definitions, calculation methodology and business rules, classification decisions, and how results lead to actions.
Principle 8: Reflects technical quality through measures that are valid and reliable
The indicators and measurement of student outcomes used in California’s accountability system are based on sound methodology and data that have been dual processed, validated, and determined to be reliable. Through a focus on high-quality measures, every school system can see some key areas of strength and areas for growth.
Principle 9: Leverages the expertise and perspectives of a broad set of educational partners and community members
Education practitioners, policy specialists, psychometricians, professionals who work with special populations, and education advocates provided extensive input and expertise to build California’s accountability system. Updates and additions to the accountability system are vetted through policy advisory groups, such as the California Practitioners Advisory Group, who advises the State Board of Education on the accountability system. Additionally, the California Department of Education (CDE) convenes policy and technical committees to advise the CDE on the system’s technical soundness; impacts to the system based on legislative and policy initiatives; consequences of different approaches for districts, schools, and groups of students; implementation; and transparency and communication of the system to the field.
Principle 10: Promotes coherence between data reporting and support/improvement programs
The California School Dashboard, Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) process, and system of support all work together to identify and address areas of performance that need to improve, so that all interested parties may understand and work toward consensus on the improvement priorities for a district and its schools. The review of these indicator data is embedded into annual processes that drive setting goals, outcomes, actions, and expenditures in every district in California.
Principle 11: Is subject to continuous revision and improvement
The SBE annually reviews California’s accountability system to ensure that it is continuously improving. In partnership with CDE staff, the SBE checks to see that indicators are performing as designed. In addition, as new student outcome data becomes available, the SBE evaluates whether the new data has a place in the system. This reflection process ensures that the system continues to be educationally meaningful and technically sound and that the metrics to hold districts and schools accountable for student outcomes remain relevant.