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Last updateTue, 23 Jan 2018 4pm

Schools

LASD reviews school accountability tool


Courtesy of California School Dashboard
The California School Dashboard ranks school performance by color.

The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees reviewed the new California School Dashboard and heard a proposal for a time-sensitive solar project at last week’s board meeting.

The California School Dashboard, released to the public March 15, replaces the previous Academic Performance Index as a means of ranking school and district performance. Criticism of the API focused on its failure to measure multiple areas of school success and deficit, creating an overemphasis on standardized test scores.

In contrast, the new Dashboard rates schools’ performance on 10 indicators, including absenteeism, suspensions, parent engagement and school climate. It also takes into account whether a school’s score has improved, declined or stagnated, which means a struggling school will be credited for making progress.

The tool also breaks data down into student subgroups – not only by race, but also by categories such as foster youth and homeless students – making it easier to identify achievement gaps and underserved demographic groups.

The complex, color-coded system assigns scores ranging from blue (very high) to red (very low) on each indicator. Schools that receive red or orange scores must take action to improve.

An initial report on the Los Altos School District shows mostly highly favorable blue scores but falters in a few areas, including cautionary yellows on English language learner progress and academic performance among socioeconomically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.

Each subgroup is compared to the entire population, so the Dashboard compares achievement in math and English among students with disabilities to the entire cohort, rather than to other students with disabilities. The Dashboard does not track individual students over the years – meaning, for example, that as English language learners become fluent and leave the subgroup, the group’s achievement may appear to fluctuate year-to-year.

Solar power

Trustees heard a proposal for a solar project that would take advantage of current PG&E rates that will be phased out at the end of the month. Solar systems built now would be grandfathered in under those favorable rates for the next 10 years.

To meet PG&E deadlines, the district would need to make a decision promptly, and if it does undertake a new solar project, all construction would need to be completed by Dec. 31.

Due to the tight timeline, the proposal recommended placing solar panels on shade structures in school parking lots rather than on rooftops. An alternative would be to include rooftop solar panels in the construction plans for schools that intend to replace portable classrooms. The proposal encompassed multiple scenarios, from adding panels to all district schools to focusing on a select few.

Trustees expressed concerns regarding the logistics of construction in parking lots during the school year, and the risk of construction failing to meet the Dec. 31 deadline, missing the window for the current rate structure.

If sufficient Measure N bond funds are available after the district’s other priorities, they could be used for the solar project. It could also be financed through a Power Purchase Agreement, under which a third party would own the solar system hosted on district property and sell its electricity to the district.

The trustees directed staff to begin the process by sending out a request for proposals, and will review them and revisit whether to move forward next month.

Also on the agenda at the March 13 board meeting:

• The Curriculum and Instruction team presented on the ongoing Education 3.0 initiative to create future-ready learners.

• The district’s head lice policy has become less restrictive, allowing students back to school sooner.

• District sexual harassment and nondiscrimination policies have been revised to clarify that the district must investigate every allegation of harassment or discrimination, whether or not a formal written complaint has been filed, and to include recommendations of how to handle reports of off-campus harassment.

For more information on the California School Dashboard, visit caschooldashboard.org.

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