School Dashboard Offers a Glimpse into Key School Indicators
The 2023 iteration of the School Dashboard, California’s annual report card for its K-12 public education system, was released today. Part of the state’s education accountability system, the Dashboard provides parents and educators with meaningful information on school and district progress so they can participate in decisions to improve student learning. First introduced in 2016-17, the Dashboard was suspended due to the pandemic in 2019-20 and 2020-21, and resumed this year with the collection of two consecutive years of data.
“The public can search every public school in the state to find data in several state and local success indicators,” explained Kern County Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Mendiburu. “The tool helps ensure that parents, community members, and educators are well-informed with important information about their child’s school.”
Each school’s data sets are displayed with simple graphics and a color rating system from red (lowest) to blue (highest), as seen below. Indicators include results from statewide assessments in English Language Arts (ELA) and math, chronic absenteeism, suspension rate, and English learner progress. Additionally, high schools are scored on graduation rates and college and career readiness.
College and Career Readiness
An important objective of public education is to ensure that students are prepared for life after graduation. This might include attending college or entering the workforce after high school graduation.
KCSOS director of College & Careers Programs Dr. Kierstin Webb says there are 11 unique indicators that make a student “college or career ready.” The calculation is based on the number of students identified as ready, divided by the number of graduates at one school. The 11 indicators include such things as passing college-prep course work, completion of College Credit Courses (formerly known as Dual Enrollment), results from state assessments in math and English during a student’s 11th grade year, Career Technical Education Pathway completion, taking advanced placement exams, and others.
High schools receive a status level (as shown in the image below), ranging from very low to very high, for College and Career Readiness during the 2022-23 school year. This year, data is not compared against prior year data, but will be beginning in 2024.
Webb and her team at KCSOS have implemented several programs to help support school districts improve their College & Career Indicators. For example, the team has spearheaded a monthly Counselor Connection meeting, which aims to provide school counselors the opportunity to network, brainstorm, and share best practices with each other.
This work has already helped dozens of middle school counselors connect with one another and share ways to help students get connected with resources. Additionally, the team is piloting a career awareness curriculum that is specifically geared toward students in middle school and junior high. The curriculum is designed to prepare students early so they can get a jump start with pathway-aligned courses and dual enrollment in high school, so they are better prepared to enter the industry of their choice or attend college. A College and Career magazine and an accompanying website at www.ihaveaplankern.org thoroughly explores the 15 career pathways available to students in Kern County.
The first-ever CTE summit, a day-long professional development opportunity for Kern educators, is being planned for February. Workshops will cover curriculum development, the key components of a CTE program, work-based learning, instructional strategies, best practices, assessment methods, and more. Meanwhile, an annual College Night is held every fall and a large Career Expo in the spring, both in collaboration with the Kern High School District. A second Career Expo is also held in eastern Kern County every year.
Local Data Trends
Prior to the pandemic, Kern County state assessment results in English Language Arts (ELA) and math showed significant growth from the initiation of the assessments in the 2014-15 school year through 2018-19. The assessments were put on hiatus for two years during the height of the pandemic (2019-20 and 2020-21 school years). Assessments resumed during the 2021-22 school year with data that affirmed the many challenges created by the pandemic and the impact distance learning, chronic absences, social-emotional wellness, and other disruptions like staffing shortages had on student progress.
The 2023 Dashboard shows that relative to state assessments, performance for students across the county as a whole continues to lag pre-pandemic levels. However, modest growth was made during the last school year compared to the school year prior. For example, 38.23 percent of students met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts/Literacy during the last school year (compared to 37.88 percent the previous year) and 22.74 percent met or exceeded standards in mathematics (compared to 21.26 percent the previous year). This growth outpaces the state average, which is a positive sign.
“It’s evident that significant work remains as our education systems continue to recover from the impacts of the pandemic,” Dr. Mendiburu said. “But we are moving in the right direction once again and it is great to see progress being made.”
Chronic absenteeism rates have improved significantly. In Kern County, the chronic absenteeism rate, which measures the number of students who missed 10 percent of school days or more, decreased 10 percentage points from 35 percent in 2021–22 to 24.4 percent in 2022–23.
“This is great news because we know there is a direct correlation between student outcomes and school attendance,” Dr. Mendiburu added. “Simply put, if students are not in class, they are not learning.”
Niki Espinoza, Maple School District’s Community and Family Coordinator, is spearheading the district’s Chronic Absenteeism effort. She says the key is educating parents on the importance of attendance. It’s working, Maple has the lowest absence rate in the county with just 7.4 percent.
System of Support
In conjunction with the Dashboard release, the state identifies schools eligible for Differentiated Assistance (DA) based on ongoing low performance of student groups. Differentiated Assistance is part of California’s Systems of Support to provide individually designed assistance (coaching) to schools to address the identified student performance issues. In Kern, this work is overseen by KCSOS.
Last year, a record 617 California school districts and county offices of education were eligible for Differentiated Assistance, including 35 in Kern County. In 2023, just 23 school districts in Kern are eligible.
“Districts that were previously eligible for DA have engaged in systems-level analysis of their district to build capacity and sustain improved growth and opportunities,” said Kimberly Graham, KCSOS’s administrator of local, regional, and statewide systems of support. “Their efforts have focused on addressing student learning loss and student engagement post-pandemic, which have been very effective.”
In addition to Differentiated Assistance, KCSOS provides a large menu of support services for Kern County School Districts, including hundreds of professional development opportunities every year, a variety of professional networks, collaborative work groups, and a host of other initiatives to foster continuous improvement.
Specific to promoting growth in ELA and math, KCSOS has increased professional development and supports in those areas by 600 percent since 2019.
By Robert Meszaros
Rob Meszaros is Director of Communications for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, where he has served since 2012. In his role, Meszaros oversees media relations, internal and external communication strategies, publications, Marcom, branding, and multi-media content creation. Before joining KCSOS, Meszaros was the PIO for CSU Bakersfield and earlier worked for seven years at The Bakersfield Californian.