Home Career The Denver School Data Dashboard Commission is now seeking applicants

The Denver School Data Dashboard Commission is now seeking applicants

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When the Denver School Board canceled the district comprehensive school rating system for a simpler state scorecard based mostly on test scores, he also directed district administrators to find out what other information the community wants to know about their schools.

This information will eventually be displayed on a public dashboard, according to resolution council was adopted in 2020. Along with the state rankings, the dashboard will provide a more comprehensive picture of Denver schools, district officials said. Parents can use the information to push for change or find a school that they think is right for their child.

Now, more than two years after the ordinance, the district is beginning to develop a dashboard. It is looking for parents, students, teachers, principals and community members to work advisory committee which would recommend what types of information—from school discipline data to interim reading test scores—should be included.

Appendix to work on the committee was posted on the district’s website on Wednesday. The deadline for submitting an application or nominating another candidate is January 1. The committee is due to begin meeting on February 7 and will meet monthly for 16 months until June 2024.

According to the data, the dashboard will be operational in the fall of 2024 district schedule.

School board members had mixed reactions to the idea Monday night. Vice President Avon’tay Anderson wondered how the dashboard would help kids learn.

In response, board member Scott Esserman asked Anderson, “Would it be important to know when you’re choosing a school for your son, for a student, whether there’s discipline?”

“Would be good to know, yeah,” Anderson said.

“Is there any way to find out right now?” Esserman asked.

“No,” Anderson said.

But even board members who favor providing more information to parents said they are wary of how that information will be used by the district.

“Moving forward with this, we need to make sure it’s not used punitively against schools,” said board member Michelle Quattlebaum. “I believe you can use it as a coaching opportunity because it’s a positive thing, but never as a punishment.”

Grant Guyer, the district’s head of strategy and portfolio services, said the dashboard would not be used for accountability, meaning schools would not face consequences based on the data — though he acknowledged that doing so would be “easier said than done.” .

“Our goal would be to avoid using this for any major decisions in the organization that are close to accountability,” Geyer said.

The discussion echoed the debate that took place when the dashboard idea was first introduced recommended by a community committee in 2020. That committee’s mission was to “reimagine” Denver’s controversial school performance system, known as SPF.

Denver launched the SPF in 2008 to serve as a report card for schools. Instead of grading schools from A to F, he ranked them on a blue to red color scale. Several factors — including standardized test scores, academic gaps between different groups of students, high school graduation rates and parent satisfaction surveys — went into the rankings.

But the factors often changed, frustrating educators who believed that a good rating was a moving target. The most controversial aspect of SPF was how it was used. The district and school board used the rankings to identify low-ranking schools for closure. High-ranked schools used the rankings to recruit students, sometimes from nearby low-ranked schools.

Dissatisfaction with SPF reached a fever pitch in 2019. The district was formed a committee of 30 people parents, teachers, principals and community members to recommend changes. In 2020 recommended by the committee moving to a simpler state SPF for accountability and adding a dashboard to give families more information about how the school looks and feels.

Committee members suggested the dashboard could include data such as the number of students who have been suspended at a particular school, how many students have completed college-level education, average class sizes and whether school buses run on time.

When it’s time for the school board to consider the dashboard, some members refused. Scott Balderman is concerned about how parents can “weaponize” data to pit schools against each other.

Ultimately, the board approved what one member called a “watered down” version. Instead of ordering the immediate creation of a dashboard, the board directed the district to “identify publicly available information that families want to know about their schools and that schools want families to know.”

That’s what this new committee will do, Guyer told the school board Monday night. Committee members will also provide feedback on initial versions of the dashboard, and part of the committee will solicit input from the wider community.

“Creating a dashboard that gives a more rounded picture of schools,” Geyer said, “is what the committee is going to focus on.”

Melanie Asmar is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado covering Denver Public Schools. Contact Melanie at masmar@chalkbeat.org.

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