The new California Schools Dashboard was revealed last month as the state’s new system of ranking schools, and while High Desert districts’ scores were mostly mediocre, local educators remain optimistic.
The Dashboard is color-coded to show school performance levels, red (worst) through blue (best). Looking over the 11 total local districts, the standout color score is yellow — not good, not bad.
The scores were especially lackluster in the English language arts and mathematics levels, which are based on students’ performance in grades third through eighth on the Smarter Balanced standardized tests administered each spring.
Silver Valley Unified School District was the only district above yellow in academics, with green scores in both English and math.
SVUSD also has yet to respond to a request for comment from the Daily Press, along with Adelanto Elementary School District, which held the only “red” score in math.
During an AESD Board of Trustees meeting last Tuesday, trustee Christine Turner said “test scores don’t show everything,” reiterating her comments to the Daily Press in a September forum. “You cannot measure performance based on test scores,” Turner said then. “In order for a district to be good, a school has to be great. In order for the school to be great, resources have to be given to them.”
Local districts fared well overall in graduation rates, with SVUSD, Barstow Unified School District and Lucerne Valley Unified School District earning the highest mark of blue. Apple Valley Unified, Hesperia Unified and Snowline Joint Unified school districts all earned a green score, while Victor Valley Union High School District fell behind with an orange score.
“I believe the success of the graduation rates in Lucerne Valley is driven from the ability our staff has to create positive relationships with our students and to understand their needs as they progress through high school,” LVUSD Superintendent Peter Livingston said. “Being a small district we are able to get to know our students and work with them in a tight-knit community and respond to each student’s needs. These positive relationships and having students feel part of a ‘family’ help to keep them in school to finish.”
Barstow Unified Superintendent Jeff Malan also noted that the staff at Barstow High School “truly have a vested interest in each of our students to ensure every opportunity to graduate,” which is reflected in the district’s scores.
In terms of English Learner (EL) progress, local districts are earning low scores, mostly in the orange, but Adelanto High School and Victor Valley High School within VVUHSD have both stated they have plans to improve.
“An area of focus for AHS is to increase the achievement of English Learner students with the support of bilingual instructional aides that shadow students in their core classes, after school tutoring, integration of supplemental curriculum and classes for EL parents designed to help them better be able to navigate the education system,” AHS Principal Ebony Purcell said.
Lucerne Valley Unified managed to earn a blue score in EL progress, however, which Livingston credits to “individualized instruction based upon the student’s’ needs.”
There is a variety between local districts in suspension rate scores, with the highest score, green, again from Silver Valley. Three districts earned red scores — Adelanto Elementary, Barstow Unified and Lucerne Valley Unified.
“(Barstow Unified is) always looking for ways to improve our overall student discipline policy and procedures to ensure all students are able to be at school,” Malan said. “In our implementation of PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) we have experienced progress in some areas but still seek to improve upon implementation of the PBIS strategies.”
Livingston said that the data used to determine the suspension rate for Lucerne Valley Unified was from the 2014-15 school year, and that “in a small district, a few students can make the data go one way or the other very quickly.”
“With suspension rates we will continue to follow (Education Code) and ensure that proper supports are in place for all students,” Livingston said.
The Dashboard is being “field tested” before its full implementation in the fall, when it will also include local district reports, which include measures such as school climate and parent engagement. According to the Dashboard website, its design and features will be changed over time based on user feedback.
High Desert educators have expressed their general approval of the new system, though Apple Valley Unified School District officials noted a few concerns, including the “the age of the data” since it may not provide the most recent information. Also, the system is limited to only assessing elementary, junior high and high schools separately, and six of AVUSD’s 10 elementary schools are K-8, meaning they’ll be judged on a K-5 scale, which AVUSD officials said has “adversely affected” scores.
“I think parents will need information shared to understand how to read the data and the complexities in determining how the colors of the school are truly achieved,” Livingston said.
For more information on how to read scores on the Dashboard, see the Daily Press’s previous story when the system was released.
Charity Lindsey may be contacted at email@example.com or 760-951-6245. Follow her on twitter@DP_Charity.