Photo: Andrew Reed/EdSource
The article was updated Dec. 12 with the list of 333 districts that will receive county assistance and other information.

Significantly fewer school districts will require county help this year for poor performance on the state’s school accountability tool, the California School Dashboard, reflecting what State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond called “steady — albeit slow — progress in important areas” such as high school graduation rates and, by one measure, test scores.

On Thursday, the California Department of Education released the third year of dashboard results, covering 2018-19, in three new languages: Vietnamese, Tagalog and Mandarin. For the first time, it also released all of the underlying data for the dashboard in DataQuest, the state’s school data site.

High school graduation rates statewide increased 2.2 percentage points to a record 85.9 percent in 2018-19, with African-American students narrowing the gap with a one-year gain of 6.2 percentage points. The proportion of high school seniors deemed ready for college, based on state test scores, completion of courses needed for admission to the University of California and California State University and other factors, rose to 44.1 percent.

Despite concerted efforts across the state to push attendance, chronic absenteeism was the one indicator that worsened statewide: 12.1 percent of students missed more than 10 percent of the school year in 2018-19, although the range was wide, with 4.5 percent of Asian students chronically absent compared with 22.5 percent of African-Americans.

Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, a nonprofit aimed at studying and reducing student absenteeism, said that the impact of wildfires, the increasing number of homeless students — who are more likely to be chronically absent — and the week-long teacher strikes in Los Angeles and Oakland, in which thousands of students stayed home from school, were enough to sway the state’s overall absenteeism.

But regardless of the circumstances, the overall rate of chronic absenteeism remains alarmingly high, she said. “These numbers are deeply troubling but not surprising,” she said. “It means that considering everything that’s been happening in California, we have to double down.”

Unlike accountability systems in many states that emphasize test scores and award a single letter or number ranking, California’s dashboard gives a broad view of school and district performance, giving equal weight to multiple measures of student progress: math and reading test scores, student suspension rates and chronic absenteeism, high school graduation rates and students’ preparation for college.

Along with overall ratings of schools and districts in each indicator, the dashboard highlights the performance of as many as 13 student groups who attend them. They include foster and homeless students, students with disabilities, multiple ethnic and racial groups and low-income students, who make up three-fifths of the state’s children.

Consistent with the state board’s belief that, as USC Associate Professor Morgan Polikoff characterized it, “competition and ratings drive unproductive behavior,” the state’s dashboard layout prevents comparisons of schools and districts, other than comparing district scores with the state average. However, EdSource’s dashboard presentation does enable multiple school and district comparisons. Go here to use it.

The dashboard measures performance on each indicator using five colors, from red (designating the lowest score) to blue, the highest. The colors are based not only on how well a school did in the current year but also how much better or worse it performed than the year before.

Charters to get assistance, too

 The dashboard was designed for multiple purposes: to inform parents and the public, to point out strengths and weaknesses districts need to work on and to identify districts that are eligible for two levels of county and state assistance.

Last year, 386 districts — about a third of the state’s districts — were designated for “differentiated” assistance, the least intensive level of help. They qualified because a minimum of one student group — usually more than one — was rated red in two or more legislative priorities: school climate, as measured by suspension rates; student engagement, as measured by graduation and chronic absenteeism rates; and academic progress, as measured by graduation rates, preparation for college and test scores in math and English language arts on the Smarter Balanced tests. This year, the number of districts fell to 333 — 14 percent fewer. On Thursday, the California Department of Education releases a list of those districts (see the list at the end of the article).

A memo that the department released Thursday provides the first data that indicate that county assistance is contributing to improvement. As estimated, 179 districts and county offices that qualified for differentiated assistance last year no longer require it, because of improved performance on the dashboard by low-performing student groups. Districts identified for county assistance based on the performance of students with disabilities decreased from 243 in 2018 to 187 in 2019. Districts identified based on the performance of homeless students dropped from 145 to 98 and for foster students, from 106 to 101.

An additional 125 new districts and county offices have been identified for assistance.

Also this year, 32 charter schools in the state will qualify for assistance from their district or county authorizer for the first time, under different criteria (see pages 21-23) for low-performing student groups. “We encourage those schools to take advantage of the assistance that is now offered to them to identify and correct issues that may be holding them back from meeting the needs of all their students,” the California Charter Schools Association said in a statement.

A district chosen for differentiated assistance must indicate in its annual Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, which student groups performed in the red and what the district will do to help them improve. The county office of education must do an analysis, but, under local control, a district can listen to or ignore the advice.

Next possibility: “intensive” help

Under state law, county offices and the state will gain more leverage over LCAP and spending decisions for consistently underperforming districts through the next level of help — “intensive” assistance. This year, for the first time, four school districts’ low academic performance will set in motion a series of state and county reviews that will determine whether intensive help will be imposed, perhaps in 2020.

All four had three or more student groups rated red for three consecutive years for at least two state indicators. Two districts, Oakland Unified and Sacramento City Unified, are also struggling to avert fiscal insolvency. The others are Mt. Diablo Unified in Concord and the Salinas Union High School District. All four qualified for homeless students and a combination of foster students, English learners, students with disabilities and, for Oakland and Mt. Diablo, African-American students.

The dashboard for statewide performance of all students showed a decline in a rating for one indicator — chronic absenteeism — from yellow, the middle of five colors, to orange, the next to the lowest color (see chart). Graduation rates rose from yellow to green. And English language arts scores jumped two color ratings, from orange to green.

Two indicators — suspension rates and math scores — stayed the same. But no change also means little closing of the disparities among student groups. Colors tell that story about math: Asian student scores are blue, white student ratings are green and seven groups’ ratings are orange, including African-Americans, English learners and foster students.

There was some movement: The rating for Hispanics and low-income students rose from orange to yellow and students with disabilities’ rating changed from red to orange.

The statewide dashboard reflects the impact of large districts like Los Angeles Unified. But California has hundreds of small districts with fewer than a thousand students. So even though the statewide graduation indicator rose to green from yellow statewide, more districts’ ratings declined (31.3 percent) than improved (25.5 percent). And it is individual district and school ratings that are relevant to parents and determine where school boards should focus their resources and attention.

The two-color jump in the statewide English language arts rating was a surprise, since two months ago, the California Department of Education had reported that the 2018-19 scores had shown little growth. The difference offers a useful lesson in how progress is measured.

One method, for the state accountability system known as CAASPP, measures the percentage of students who are proficient or “meeting standard” on the English language arts test. It showed little change from last year.

The dashboard method measures how much students’ scores progressed toward the score designating proficiency; for already proficient students, the dashboard measures how much they have advanced toward advanced status. The state board chose this method to credit the improvement of low-performing and high-performing students. The growth in students’ scores on the dashboard was enough to push the overall statewide color to green.

Big districts with diverse student groups tend to show fewer swings in dashboard ratings. A quick look at the big gainers and decliners among districts in 2018-19 pointed to smaller districts, such as Laton Unified, south of Fresno, with 695 students. In that district, chronic absenteeism jumped three rungs from orange to blue; English language arts and math increased from red to yellow, and with a drop in suspensions, its rating went from orange to green.

The 350-student Colfax Elementary District, in Placer County on Interstate 80, saw its math rating rise two colors to green and suspension rates move from red to green.

On the other hand, the Happy Camp Union Elementary District in Siskiyou County, where 78 percent of its 104 students are low-income and many families are Native Americans, had a tough year. Chronic absenteeism, English language arts scores and suspension rates fell two or three colors to red; math scores already were red. The principal is out on medical leave, and the 4th-to-6th-grade teacher, who is filling in, was unavailable on deadline. “Things are in chaos,” confided a staff member.

The state dashboard does work well on cell phones. You can get the mobile application at app stores under “CA Dashboard.”

EdSource reporter Carolyn Jones and data journalist Daniel J. Willis contributed to this article.

Which 333 districts and county offices will receive assistance

This year, 333 school districts and county offices of education have been designated to receive state or county assistance because at least one student group received a red rating in two or more performance indicators. Student groups include students with disabilities, English learners, foster children and racial and ethnic groups.

DistrictCountyStudent Groups
San Joaquin County Office of EducationSan Joaquin9
Oakland UnifiedAlameda8
Banning UnifiedRiverside8
San Bernardino County Office of EducationSan Bernardino8
Klamath-Trinity Joint UnifiedHumboldt7
Kern County Office of EducationKern7
Konocti UnifiedLake7
Los Angeles County Office of EducationLos Angeles7
Adelanto ElementarySan Bernardino7
Barstow UnifiedSan Bernardino7
Antioch UnifiedContra Costa6
Mt. Diablo UnifiedContra Costa6
West Contra Costa UnifiedContra Costa6
Lakeport UnifiedLake6
Merced County Office of EducationMerced6
Orange County Department of EducationOrange6
Coachella Valley UnifiedRiverside6
San Diego County Office of EducationSan Diego6
Fresno County Office of EducationFresno5
Yosemite UnifiedMadera5
Needles UnifiedSan Bernardino5
Stockton UnifiedSan Joaquin5
Ravenswood City ElementarySan Mateo5
Vallejo City UnifiedSolano5
Santa Rosa City SchoolsSonoma5
San Lorenzo UnifiedAlameda4
Kernville Union ElementaryKern4
Eastside Union ElementaryLos Angeles4
Montebello UnifiedLos Angeles4
Marin County Office of EducationMarin4
Monterey County Office of EducationMonterey4
Hemet UnifiedRiverside4
Sacramento County Office of EducationSacramento4
San Juan UnifiedSacramento4
Lodi UnifiedSan Joaquin4
Santa Clara County Office of EducationSanta Clara4
Gateway UnifiedShasta4
Stanislaus County Office of EducationStanislaus4
Hayward UnifiedAlameda3
Chico UnifiedButte3
Calaveras UnifiedCalaveras3
Black Oak Mine UnifiedEl Dorado3
Fresno UnifiedFresno3
Golden Plains UnifiedFresno3
Sierra UnifiedFresno3
Washington UnifiedFresno3
Imperial County Office of EducationImperial3
San Pasqual Valley UnifiedImperial3
Maricopa UnifiedKern3
Susanville ElementaryLassen3
Glendale UnifiedLos Angeles3
Keppel Union ElementaryLos Angeles3
Lancaster ElementaryLos Angeles3
Paramount UnifiedLos Angeles3
Pasadena UnifiedLos Angeles3
Tulelake Basin Joint UnifiedModoc3
Salinas Union HighMonterey3
Grass Valley ElementaryNevada3
Riverside County Office of EducationRiverside3
Jurupa UnifiedRiverside3
Elk Grove UnifiedSacramento3
Sacramento City UnifiedSacramento3
Lucerne Valley UnifiedSan Bernardino3
Borrego Springs UnifiedSan Diego3
Grossmont Union HighSan Diego3
Oceanside UnifiedSan Diego3
Valley Center-Pauma UnifiedSan Diego3
Manteca UnifiedSan Joaquin3
San Mateo County Office of EducationSan Mateo3
Santa Barbara County Office of EducationSanta Barbara3
Lompoc UnifiedSanta Barbara3
Santa Maria Joint Union HighSanta Barbara3
Morgan Hill UnifiedSanta Clara3
Happy Camp Union ElementarySiskiyou3
Sonoma County Office of EducationSonoma3
Sutter County Office of EducationSutter3
Tulare County Office of EducationTulare3
Porterville UnifiedTulare3
Oxnard Union HighVentura3
Alameda UnifiedAlameda2
Berkeley UnifiedAlameda2
Biggs UnifiedButte2
Golden Feather Union ElementaryButte2
Oroville City ElementaryButte2
Oroville Union HighButte2
Thermalito Union ElementaryButte2
Contra Costa County Office of EducationContra Costa2
Pittsburg UnifiedContra Costa2
Lake Tahoe UnifiedEl Dorado2
Mother Lode Union ElementaryEl Dorado2
Clovis UnifiedFresno2
Humboldt County Office of EducationHumboldt2
McKinleyville Union ElementaryHumboldt2
Eureka City SchoolsHumboldt2
Brawley Union HighImperial2
Bishop UnifiedInyo2
Kern HighKern2
Mojave UnifiedKern2
Southern Kern UnifiedKern2
Standard ElementaryKern2
Upper Lake UnifiedLake2
Shaffer Union ElementaryLassen2
Fort Sage UnifiedLassen2
Antelope Valley Union HighLos Angeles2
Centinela Valley Union HighLos Angeles2
East Whittier City ElementaryLos Angeles2
Inglewood UnifiedLos Angeles2
Norwalk-La Mirada UnifiedLos Angeles2
Palmdale ElementaryLos Angeles2
Dixie ElementaryMarin2
San Rafael City HighMarin2
Mendocino UnifiedMendocino2
Ukiah UnifiedMendocino2
Willits UnifiedMendocino2
Merced City ElementaryMerced2
Gustine UnifiedMerced2
Dos Palos Oro Loma Joint UnifiedMerced2
Monterey Peninsula UnifiedMonterey2
Nevada Joint Union HighNevada2
Tahoe-Truckee UnifiedPlacer2
Moreno Valley UnifiedRiverside2
Perris Union HighRiverside2
San Jacinto UnifiedRiverside2
River Delta Joint UnifiedSacramento2
Twin Rivers UnifiedSacramento2
San Benito HighSan Benito2
Bear Valley UnifiedSan Bernardino2
Ontario-MontclairSan Bernardino2
Rialto UnifiedSan Bernardino2
San Bernardino City UnifiedSan Bernardino2
Trona Joint UnifiedSan Bernardino2
Victor Valley Union HighSan Bernardino2
Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint UnifiedSan Bernardino2
Silver Valley UnifiedSan Bernardino2
Escondido Union HighSan Diego2
Fallbrook Union HighSan Diego2
Lemon GroveSan Diego2
San Francisco UnifiedSan Francisco2
Tracy Joint UnifiedSan Joaquin2
San Luis Obispo County Office of EducationSan Luis Obispo2
Paso Robles Joint UnifiedSan Luis Obispo2
Cabrillo UnifiedSan Mateo2
San Bruno Park ElementarySan Mateo2
South San Francisco UnifiedSan Mateo2
Orcutt Union ElementarySanta Barbara2
Santa Barbara UnifiedSanta Barbara2
East Side Union HighSanta Clara2
Evergreen ElementarySanta Clara2
Gilroy UnifiedSanta Clara2
San Jose UnifiedSanta Clara2
Pajaro Valley UnifiedSanta Cruz2
Happy Valley Union ElementaryShasta2
Pacheco Union ElementaryShasta2
Scott Valley UnifiedSiskiyou2
Fairfield-Suisun UnifiedSolano2
Cotati-Rohnert Park UnifiedSonoma2
Empire Union ElementaryStanislaus2
Modesto City HighStanislaus2
Turlock UnifiedStanislaus2
Los Molinos UnifiedTehama2
Red Bluff Union ElementaryTehama2
Ducor Union ElementaryTulare2
Tulare Joint Union HighTulare2
Dinuba UnifiedTulare2
Exeter UnifiedTulare2
Sonora ElementaryTuolumne2
Big Oak Flat-Groveland UnifiedTuolumne2
Santa Paula UnifiedVentura2
Yolo County Office of EducationYolo2
Washington UnifiedYolo2
Marysville Joint UnifiedYuba2
Emery UnifiedAlameda1
Fremont UnifiedAlameda1
Newark UnifiedAlameda1
New Haven UnifiedAlameda1
San Leandro UnifiedAlameda1
Alpine County UnifiedAlpine1
Palermo Union ElementaryButte1
Bret Harte Union HighCalaveras1
Mark Twain Union ElementaryCalaveras1
Vallecito UnionCalaveras1
Williams UnifiedColusa1
Byron Union ElementaryContra Costa1
Martinez UnifiedContra Costa1
San Ramon Valley UnifiedContra Costa1
Del Norte County UnifiedDel Norte1
Buckeye Union ElementaryEl Dorado1
Camino Union ElementaryEl Dorado1
Pioneer Union ElementaryEl Dorado1
Pollock Pines ElementaryEl Dorado1
Rescue Union ElementaryEl Dorado1
Coalinga-Huron UnifiedFresno1
Central UnifiedFresno1
Kerman UnifiedFresno1
Stony Creek Joint UnifiedGlenn1
Willows UnifiedGlenn1
Hamilton UnifiedGlenn1
Northern Humboldt Union HighHumboldt1
Loleta Union ElementaryHumboldt1
Pacific Union ElementaryHumboldt1
Peninsula UnionHumboldt1
Calexico UnifiedImperial1
Central Union HighImperial1
Imperial UnifiedImperial1
Delano Joint Union HighKern1
Greenfield UnionKern1
Lakeside UnionKern1
Muroc Joint UnifiedKern1
Semitropic ElementaryKern1
Taft Union HighKern1
Tehachapi UnifiedKern1
El Tejon UnifiedKern1
Kings County Office of EducationKings1
Hanford ElementaryKings1
Hanford Joint Union HighKings1
Pioneer Union ElementaryKings1
Reef-Sunset UnifiedKings1
Kelseyville UnifiedLake1
Baldwin Park UnifiedLos Angeles1
Bassett UnifiedLos Angeles1
Bonita UnifiedLos Angeles1
Downey UnifiedLos Angeles1
El Monte Union HighLos Angeles1
El Rancho UnifiedLos Angeles1
HawthorneLos Angeles1
Los Angeles UnifiedLos Angeles1
Los NietosLos Angeles1
Lynwood UnifiedLos Angeles1
Monrovia UnifiedLos Angeles1
South Whittier ElementaryLos Angeles1
Torrance UnifiedLos Angeles1
Westside Union ElementaryLos Angeles1
Wilsona ElementaryLos Angeles1
Rowland UnifiedLos Angeles1
Alhambra UnifiedLos Angeles1
Madera County Superintendent of SchoolsMadera1
Madera UnifiedMadera1
Golden Valley UnifiedMadera1
Chawanakee UnifiedMadera1
Shoreline UnifiedMarin1
Mariposa County UnifiedMariposa1
Anderson Valley UnifiedMendocino1
Arena Union ElementaryMendocino1
Los Banos UnifiedMerced1
South Monterey County Joint Union HighMonterey1
Santa Rita Union ElementaryMonterey1
Soledad UnifiedMonterey1
Napa County Office of EducationNapa1
Napa Valley UnifiedNapa1
Nevada City ElementaryNevada1
Pleasant Ridge Union ElementaryNevada1
Huntington Beach City ElementaryOrange1
Huntington Beach Union HighOrange1
Orange UnifiedOrange1
Santa Ana UnifiedOrange1
Auburn Union ElementaryPlacer1
Foresthill Union ElementaryPlacer1
Roseville City ElementaryPlacer1
Beaumont UnifiedRiverside1
Desert Sands UnifiedRiverside1
Nuview UnionRiverside1
Perris ElementaryRiverside1
Lake Elsinore UnifiedRiverside1
Folsom-Cordova UnifiedSacramento1
Center Joint UnifiedSacramento1
Natomas UnifiedSacramento1
HollisterSan Benito1
Chaffey Joint Union HighSan Bernardino1
Chino Valley UnifiedSan Bernardino1
Helendale ElementarySan Bernardino1
Morongo UnifiedSan Bernardino1
Redlands UnifiedSan Bernardino1
Rim of the World UnifiedSan Bernardino1
Victor ElementarySan Bernardino1
Hesperia UnifiedSan Bernardino1
Upland UnifiedSan Bernardino1
Apple Valley UnifiedSan Bernardino1
Alpine Union ElementarySan Diego1
Cajon Valley UnionSan Diego1
Escondido UnionSan Diego1
Lakeside Union ElementarySan Diego1
La Mesa-Spring ValleySan Diego1
Mountain Empire UnifiedSan Diego1
Ramona City UnifiedSan Diego1
San Ysidro ElementarySan Diego1
San Francisco County Office of EducationSan Francisco1
Escalon UnifiedSan Joaquin1
Lincoln UnifiedSan Joaquin1
Linden UnifiedSan Joaquin1
Lucia Mar UnifiedSan Luis Obispo1
Jefferson Union HighSan Mateo1
Millbrae ElementarySan Mateo1
San Carlos ElementarySan Mateo1
Santa Maria-BonitaSanta Barbara1
Carpinteria UnifiedSanta Barbara1
Campbell Union HighSanta Clara1
Fremont Union HighSanta Clara1
Santa Clara UnifiedSanta Clara1
Santa Cruz County Office of EducationSanta Cruz1
San Lorenzo Valley UnifiedSanta Cruz1
Enterprise ElementaryShasta1
Weed Union ElementarySiskiyou1
Dixon UnifiedSolano1
Petaluma City SchoolsSonoma1
Cloverdale UnifiedSonoma1
Mark West Union ElementarySonoma1
Sonoma Valley UnifiedSonoma1
Windsor UnifiedSonoma1
Ceres UnifiedStanislaus1
Patterson Joint UnifiedStanislaus1
Stanislaus Union ElementaryStanislaus1
Sylvan Union ElementaryStanislaus1
Newman-Crows Landing UnifiedStanislaus1
Riverbank UnifiedStanislaus1
Oakdale Joint UnifiedStanislaus1
Waterford UnifiedStanislaus1
Yuba City UnifiedSutter1
Antelope ElementaryTehama1
Corning Union ElementaryTehama1
Red Bluff Joint Union HighTehama1
Alta Vista ElementaryTulare1
Buena Vista ElementaryTulare1
Cutler-Orosi Joint UnifiedTulare1
Visalia UnifiedTulare1
Sonora Union HighTuolumne1
Ventura County Office of EducationVentura1
Fillmore UnifiedVentura1
Moorpark UnifiedVentura1
Davis Joint UnifiedYolo1
Yuba County Office of EducationYuba1
Camptonville ElementaryYuba1
Whitmore Union ElementaryShasta0
Sierra County Office of EducationSierra0

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  1. Ann 3 years ago3 years ago

    Well after reading this, I can see the ‘dashboard’ is balderdash! Out school system is failing more than half the kids in it. You really can’t put lipstick on this pig.

  2. Bo Loney 3 years ago3 years ago

    Excellent job teachers.