Dashboard gives quick view of school district direction

School districts are awash in data!

Data is part of the everyday life of the classroom teacher. It is guiding evidence for policy makers, and the primary lever for state and federal accountability. These days, data has become the coin of the realm for almost any discussion of how well schools are doing—an issue of paramount interest to the public, too.

To facilitate community understanding of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District’s progress, the district website has added a new section called the District Dashboard. The interested observer is invited to visit www.chuh.org, and click on the dashboard, to review a manageable and, we hope, understandable amount of data describing the district’s effectiveness and challenges.

The District Dashboard is like the red light on a car dashboard that lets you know if the engine is overheating. The dashboard data doesn’t tell the whole story, but it provides a quick way to assess if the district is moving in the right direction. It acts like a warning light that invites more investigation. The goal is to present enough data for an overview, without turning off the reader with too much. Just like the simple-to-read dials on a car, the District Dashboard “needs to be easy to understand and readily available,” said Superintendent Doug Heuer.

The District Dashboard features easy-to-read data. Attendance and school suspension charts describe school climate. Reading and math proficiency scores for the district over four years provide a measure of student achievement. Data on college enrollment rates, ACT test taking and college credits earned in high school help describe college readiness. This is a broader set of issues than is reported on the state’s Local Report Card for school districts, and the superintendent is hopeful that it paints a helpful picture of how the district is doing on its mission: to equip students to be college ready and life prepared.   

Each graph shows local performance over several years because, according to Heuer, “the best way to assess progress is to look at the district numbers over time, not in comparison to other districts.” If things are flat or going in a negative direction, it means there is a problem. If there is improvement, it means district programs and strategies are working.

In addition to providing a quick overview of district progress, the dashboard should also stimulate interest in what the “red light” doesn’t explain: What is behind the numbers? Where are the problems? What is the plan to produce progress? In other words, what are we doing to make this car run smoothly? These are issues that the community and school leaders need to explore together.

Susie Kaeser

Susie Kaeser is a 30-year resident of Cleveland Heights, former director of Reaching Heights, and recently joined the board of trustees of the Home Repair Resource Center.

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Volume 4, Issue 4, Posted 2:29 PM, 03.14.2011