A Look at the New California School Dashboard

California’s new, comprehensive yardstick for school performance is out.

On Dec. 6, the California Department of Education released its second annual California School Dashboard. It contains some logistical improvements over last year’s report, as well as pertinent new information like chronic absenteeism rates — and plenty of color, thanks to its color-coding system.

The latest report echoes the optimism we saw last month from the CDE on high school graduation rates. 1,000 schools (58%) fell into the Dashboard’s blue (highest) or green (second-highest) color-coding categories. But as this analysis from CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano lays out, there were plenty of concerning items as well.

Out of around 1,000 schools in California, 374 or about 1 in 3 qualify for the “State System of Support” because of their inability to provide basic opportunities for education equity. These schools fell into the red (worst) category on two or more key education indicators.

“(This) should create a tremendous urgency for our newly elected state leaders and local leaders to start to do something dramatically different to support our students so that several years from now, far fewer schools are struggling to create opportunities for all students,” Carrie Hahnel, co-executive director of student advocacy group Education Trust-West, told CalMatters.

Just 40% of California schools are hitting their targets in English. An even lower percentage (30%) are up to state standards in math.

“…Even supposed bright spots, such as graduation rates, were clouded by the state’s widespread use of online ‘credit recovery’ courses and other techniques used by districts to deter dropouts, and perhaps artificially inflate the proportion of students who actually meet requirements to graduate,” Cano writes.

Similarly, only 38% of high schools earned blue or green marks for college and career readiness.

As predicted, chronic absenteeism rates also paint a picture worthy of urgency. Over half of the state’s schools are in the orange or red zones for chronic absences. And that doesn’t include any high schools, which were notably left out of this portion of the analysis.

One other positive indicator, however, is school suspension rates. 53% of schools were in the green or blue categories, suggesting the overall situation continues to improve. Racial and ethnic disparities in suspension unfortunately persist.