This year’s California School Dashboard was just released. What does that have to do with you? A lot.
It has to do with forging a real partnership with your school district around the kids you care about.
The California School Dashboard
Since I left the Partnership for Children & Youth, I’ve been working with the school day, and have learned a lot about California’s emerging System of Support for K-12 education. Here’s what I know (I promise this is eventually relevant to you):
- The California School Dashboard shows how districts (and schools) are performing on indicators (for example, test scores, suspension rates, graduation rates) for all students and for subgroups of students (like homeless youth, foster youth, English language learners, students with disabilities, students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds and racial/ethnic groups). The Dashboard gives districts and schools ratings on a dashboard gauge (red and orange are low; green and blue are high) based on their data for each of the indicators for all students and for each of the subgroups.
- Differentiated Assistance is the designation for districts that have low findings for a student subgroup in two or more indicators. Districts in differentiated assistance are eligible for additional support from the state through their County Office of Education, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) or other organizations in the state’s System of Support. Districts might, for example, qualify for extra help because of low test scores and high suspension rates of African-American students, and/or low graduation and high suspension rates among students with disabilities. Some districts qualify under several subgroups.
- Other districts with red or orange ratings for just one indicator per subgroup might not qualify for Differentiated Assistance but they are still required to address the low results in their Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs). A district that has low ELA scores for Native American students, for example, would need to show how it plans to improve those scores in its LCAP.
The new Dashboard qualifies 374 districts (more than one-third of CA districts) for Differentiated Assistance. The number went up by about 150 districts because this year’s Dashboard added two indicators – chronic absence and college/career readiness. Last year, EdSource identified 600 districts that fall into the second category – with red or orange indicators for one subgroup and one indicator. In other words, the vast majority of districts in the state have red or orange ratings for at least one subgroup.
Here’s the part that’s relevant to you – as far as I can tell, Expanded Learning programs are completely invisible in this new System of Support. This is true at the state level and in districts. No one is talking about how California’s $730 million of Expanded Learning programs and infrastructure could help districts (and of course kids) get out of the red and orange.
And yet, as you know, the Expanded Learning field has lots of research about its impact on school-day attendance and test scores, not to mention student engagement, school climate and the social and emotional skills that are so foundational for students to succeed … on the Dashboard, and more importantly in school, work and life. (See California Afterschool Network’s The State of the State of Expanded Learning in California for specific stats from across the state.)
And, here’s where it gets really relevant to you. If you want to grab this moment and this opportunity, you’ll need to figure out the right arguments and the right people to get yourself to the district planning table. With so many districts facing red and orange ratings, you are extremely likely to be working in a district that could use your program’s help. By reaching out specifically around the Dashboard findings, your program can become a real asset and partner to the district and the targeted students. And, no small thing, you should also be well-positioned to be part of the district’s LCAP and budget. This year’s Dashboard was just released so districts will be paying attention and starting to look for solutions.
Here are some beginning steps:
- Start by finding your district’s results on the California School Dashboard, and identifying the subgroups and indicators where there are red or orange ratings. This data is posted by the district and school site.
- Meet with your team to talk about the specific supports your program provides that would help move students around those indicators. For example, are you serving a significant proportion of students from the subgroup that the district is struggling with? What services are you providing that help with the identified challenge area(s)? What data – quantitative or qualitative – do you have to support that claim?
- Find out who in the district is working on addressing the district’s Dashboard findings, and network your way to those people. If you’re not sure how to find those people, draw a map of connections with your team. You’ll be surprised by the depth and breadth of your collective connections.
- Set up a meeting and come prepared to have a conversation. This isn’t a sales pitch. This is about understanding what the district is hoping to do, what it’s already doing and planning to do, and how your program can help. In this conversation, be ready to share what your program does well and how it can partner around the district’s goals and plans.
- If the first lead doesn’t work, keep going by reaching out to multiple connections.
- And once you have traction, follow up on the opportunities that make sense for your program’s expertise and goals.
This sixth point is important. I’m not suggesting that after-school programs morph themselves into math or ELA tutoring sites. We’ve been down that road and frankly, it’s a waste of the incredibly important strengths Expanded Learning programs offer in terms of staff ability to mentor and inspire, and students’ eagerness to engage, create, lead and learn. The Learning In Afterschool and Summer Principles succinctly capture Expanded Learning programs’ assets in providing “learning that is active, collaborative, and meaningful, builds mastery and broadens horizons.” We can and must make clear connections between these contributions and the pressing need of school districts to better serve the students they find hardest to reach.
Thanks for hanging into the bottom of the page. I’m eager for the school day to embrace the Expanded Learning field through authentic and impactful partnerships. I’m hoping this new K-12 reform effort can be an opening for all of your great work and that together, the Dashboard needles will move from red and orange to blue.
My breakfast continues to be yogurt, granola, and blueberries… and of course, a large cup of coffee. (Consistency is a top 5 strength.)