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New state dashboard measures SMMUSD student performance

Eric Billingsley, Freelance Reporter
8:57 am PDT May 15, 2017

The State Board of Education and California Department of Education recently launched the California School Dashboard website, www.caschooldashboard.org, to show how local educational agencies and schools are performing in the state’s new school accountability system.

“The California School Dashboard provides local communities with meaningful and relevant information on how well schools and districts are doing,” said State Board of Education President Michael W. Kirt in a March 2017 press release. “It will help in local decision-making by highlighting both the progress of schools and student groups, shining a light on disparities and helping stakeholders pinpoint where resources should be directed.”

The website uses colors to represent school’s performance in areas such as test scores, graduation rates, English Learner progress and suspension rates. Blue is the highest mark, followed by green, yellow, orange and red being the lowest.

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is getting blue and green marks in the All Students Performance category for Mathematics (grades 3-8), English Language Arts (grades 3-8), Graduation Rate (grades 9-12) and English Language Learners (grades K-12), according to the site.

However, the district received a mid-range, yellow mark for All Students Performance in Suspension Rate for grades K-12. The numbers increased in most student groups from the previous year, with the exception of English Learners, Asians and those who are two or more races.

Socioeconomically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, African Americans, American Indians and Pacific Islanders showed the highest increase in suspension rate compared to the previous year. They received orange marks.

“We are concerned that suspension rates are higher for certain subgroups in our district, and this is being addressed as part of our Excellence through Equity plan,” said Gail Pinsker, community and public relations officer for SMMUSD.

The district has three priorities in the Excellence through Equity plan, she said. Goal Three states all students will engage in schools that are safe, well maintained and family-friendly. The plan notes the disproportionality in suspension rates and the district’s commitment to improving student outcomes.

The district hopes to address the issue through Restorative Justice practices, a Social Justice standards initiative and by providing bias training for staff, said Pinsker. 

Schools are also using other corrective practices to help students that may or may not include suspension. California Education Code guides discipline on suspensions and expulsions.

“We want all kids in school every day learning and thriving,” said Pinsker. “There are many resources available, through the district and outside of the district, to help students through challenging times and contribute toward reducing violations.”

A closer look at the dashboard also shows SMMUSD student subgroup performance in Mathematics and English Language Arts has generally been increasing. 

But, graduation rates for students with disabilities, African Americans, Asians and those who are two or more races have experienced single percentage point - or less - declines compared to the previous year.

The dashboard is part of California’s new school accountability and continuous improvement system, according to the California Department of Education press release. The state’s former accountability system — the Academic Performance Index (API) — relied exclusively on standardized tests and gave schools a single score. It was suspended three years ago. 

The dashboard is a work in progress and will be fine tuned as more indicators and feedback are incorporated, said Kirst in the press release.

SMMUSD’s Excellence through Equity plan and ways parents can be involved in the plan will to be addressed in the State of Our Schools report by Dr. Ben Drati at Malibu’s Webster Elementary School at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 15.