Annual CA education report shows statewide academic progress

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The 2019 California School Dashboard report shows statewide improvement in graduation rates, college and career readiness and in English and math test scores.

Every year, the California Department of Education, or CDE, releases a report measuring statewide academic performance based on six main indicators: chronic absenteeism, suspension rates, graduation rates, college and career preparedness and English and math test scores.

“The District made significant improvements in the indicator for College and Career Readiness, increasing 11.8% to 63.3% prepared,” said Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board president Judy Appel in an email.

Alameda County has seen similar progress in comparison to the statewide improvements, according to Ingrid Roberson, the chief of learning and accountability services for the Alameda County Office of Education, or ACOE. These improvements are partly the result of California moving toward a system of targeted support for at-risk groups, Roberson added.

The CDE uses the report to identify school districts that are in most need of assistance, based on student groups receiving extremely low rankings in two or more indicators. The number of school districts eligible for this “differentiated assistance” has gone down from 386 in 2018 to 333 in 2019, according to CDE spokesperson Scott Roark.

BUSD is one of the school districts in Alameda County that qualifies for differentiated assistance because of high chronic absenteeism, suspension rates and low academic indicators among homeless and foster youth groups, according to Appel.

The only measure of academic performance in the report that saw a significant negative change from 2018 to 2019 was chronic absenteeism, with 10.1% of students missing 10% or more of the school year, a 1.1% increase from the 2018 report.

Roark added in an email that the increase in chronic absenteeism may be partially due to rising homelessness, work stoppages and natural disasters.

“Now that chronic absenteeism is being tracked closely, the CDE has an opportunity to improve and learn how we can better help our students with attendance problems,” Roark said in the email.

The report shows a narrowing of achievement gaps in several areas, according to a CDE press release, although the gaps are still significant. Black students, for example, showed the largest improvement in graduation rates of any of the groups measured, according to the CDE press release.

For the upcoming year, in order to further the educational progress seen this year, the ACOE will continue working on its Pathways to College and Career Department, as well as building more youth-led initiatives and investing in leadership development for teachers, Roberson said. The ACOE is also working on addressing the unique needs of at-risk student groups, such as homeless students.

“The California School Dashboard is a tool for more equitable outcomes,” Roberson added. “(Examining this data) is definitely a necessary step we have to take if we’re really trying to make a difference for life outcomes. It’s measuring so much more than test scores, it’s measuring things that really matter.”

Contact Alexandra Feldman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_p_feldman.