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Daily Dish: Data Dashboard for California Measures Success Beyond Test Scores

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September 16, 2015 04:01 pm


Standardized tests should be a bright star in the universe of accountability, but not the whole sky. In an EdSource article, Test scores to be only one factor in measuring school progress, this analogy begins the discussion of the new accountability system to measure success of schools and districts in California. After the adoption of Common Core standards and a shift in testing to Smarter Balanced tests, the State Board of Education suspended the Academic Performance Index (API) and is now creating a new system that will incorporate many measures of progress.

As a three digit number, API did not provide much insight into other factors that indicate school or district performance, including academic success and leadership. According to the article, the new system will include measures of progress, including high school graduation rates and suspension rates, equitable distribution of qualified teachers and implementation of Common Core. However, standardized tests will still play a role, especially since the Smarter Balanced tests also measure for college and career readiness, a key metric in the system.

In the piece, this new system, with its multiple indicators and measures, is compared to the dashboard of a car, where test scores are just one of the gauges of success. This “data dashboard” concept was explored in an Alliance report, Data Dashboards: Accounting for What Matters, about how going beyond a test score provides a more transparent way to track performance, monitor accountability and ensure at-risk students are not lost in numbers.

Bob Wise, president of the Alliance also compares this “data dashboard” to that of an automobile.  “Data dashboards provide an array of information about school performance and practices, enabling educators to quickly identify and address areas in need of improvement.” A central goal of this style of accountability system is continuous improvement and the ability to shift classroom instruction accordingly and respond to student needs, especially for traditionally underserved students.

To learn more about the “data dashboard” concept, check out Data Dashboards: Accounting for What Matters, available online at:

Additionally, the Alliance held a video webinar on the topic featuring Robert Rothman, the report author and a senior fellow at the Alliance, Chip Slaven, senior advocacy advisor at the Alliance, and Chris Kingsley, associate director for local policy and advocacy at the Data Quality Campaign. Archived video from the webinar is available at


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