Last year, the state of California started measuring the quality of schools and districts in a new way.

The California Dashboard shows how each school in California is doing to ensure that students can read and do math on grade-level as well as other important measures of school quality. It’s a great place to start when assessing whether your child’s high school does a good job of preparing students for college. You can learn more about each of the ratings in this report by Oakland Achieves.

Here’s a basic primer on how to understand a school’s rating on the dashboard:

A school’s color rating shows you whether the school was above or below average this year and how they did this year versus last year. Blue means the school is doing really well and getting better whereas red means the school is low-performing and has been getting worse.

The color rating takes into account a school’s status and how much it has changed from the previous year.

Each rating has two parts:

  1. StatusHow well is the school doing in the current year? This tells you whether your school is above or below average this year and by how many points.
  2. ChangeHow did a school do this year versus last year? This shows you how many points up or down the proficiency rate went at the school and whether it is getting better or worse over time. When a school’s performance has changed by only a small amount, the Dashboard will consider its performance “maintained.”

The dashboard has ratings for six different areas:

  1. Academics – English and Math
  2. English Learner progress
  3. Attendance
  4. Discipline
  5. Graduation
  6. College-readiness

Every school gets an overall color rating and one for each student subgroup including low-income students, students with disabilities, English learners and students of different racial/ethnic backgrounds.

This means that a school may be green overall in English, but a red or orange for its low-income students. It’s important to look at all of the color ratings when assessing your school. The Dashboard website has an Equity report where you can explore color ratings by student subgroup.

These performance colors can be broken out into four categories:

  • Top Left: High-performing but getting worse over time
  • Top Right: High-performing and improving over time
  • Bottom Left: Low-performing and getting worse over time
  • Bottom Right: Low-performing but improving over time

To fully understand the picture at your school you need to look at both their color rating and their status and change placement. As an example, if your school “Increased” from last year and had “High” performance this year it would be “High Performing and improving over time” and “blue.” But if your school “Declined” it would be “green” and you’d want to look into why the school was getting worse over time.   

In an ideal world, schools would be “blue” across all Dashboard ratings for every student group. However, we know that isn’t the reality for all students across the state. Understanding how to find important information about schools in the California dashboard is a key first step in advocating to make that a reality for all students.

Explore the California Dashboard and see how your school or district is doing!

Read the next post in our College Readiness Series: What Parents Need to Know about California’s New College/Career Indicator