'Dashboards' Provide Data On Schools

"We publish data to guide and promote improvement," said U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.
"We publish data to guide and promote improvement," said U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. (By Andre Penner -- Associated Press)
By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 14, 2008

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has unveiled a new tool to show the public a snapshot of how schools fare in reading and math achievement, graduation rates and participation in challenging Advanced Placement exams.

The so-called dashboards, one for each state and the District, aim to distill the overwhelming amount of data on student achievement into a simple format that illustrates troubles and bright spots for schools. The two-page reports, filled with graphics, include pass rates on national and state reading and math exams for fourth- and eighth-graders, national and state graduation rates and the number of schools meeting or falling short of No Child Left Behind goals.

Spellings said last week that the reports will "help parents and policymakers understand how each state is performing." She plans to use them to spark discussion in upcoming visits to Washington state, Oregon, California and elsewhere. "We publish data to guide and promote improvement," she said.

The dashboards join several efforts by education experts to package growing reams of data on school achievement in a user-friendly way. The Southern Regional Education Board, an Atlanta-based nonprofit group that works with 16 states, including Virginia and Maryland, plans to release state "score cards" in coming weeks. Spokesman Alan Richard said board experts spent months debating what information should be included.

"It's difficult for the normal person to know about the intricate test scores that we in the education field work with every day," Richard said. "We wanted educators, parents and policymakers to be able to find more easily their state's basic data on student achievement, graduation rates and other measures."

Holly Kuzmich, deputy chief of staff for Spellings, said the dashboards are meant to give a clear picture of progress toward meeting federal goals. For instance, they show the number of students tutored under No Child Left Behind and how many transferred out of schools that didn't meet academic goals.

"What we're trying to do is put it into simple, plain language," Kuzmich said.

The dashboards can be found at http://www.ed.gov/nclb/accountability/results/progress. Maryland posts school performance data at http://www.mdreportcard.org. Virginia's is at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/VDOE/src. For D.C. schools, go to http://webb.k12.dc.us/nclb.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company