State unveils ‘parent dashboard’ for school data

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published February 6, 2018

ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — The Michigan Department of Education recently launched a new online tool that puts performance data from every public school in the state at people’s fingertips.

The Parent Dashboard for School Transparency, available at MISchoolData.org/ParentDash board, provides nearly 20 pieces of data for those who want to check out the performance of their child’s school.

“It’s an easy way for families and others to compare a school’s performance at the building level with the average performances of similar schools around the state,” MDE spokesperson Bill DiSessa said.

The tool displays a rolling three years’ worth of building-level data, where available, from each K-12 public school in Michigan — everything from standardized test scores and graduation and attendance rates, to expulsion numbers and data about student-staff ratios.

The dashboard, according to MDE officials, was created with significant parent feedback on its planning, content and design.

“Parents asked, and we listened,” State Superintendent Brian Whiston said in a statement. “I’m very pleased to make the Parent Dashboard available to parents and other Michigan education stakeholders who want a more complete picture of how their local schools are serving children.”

The Rochester Community Schools district alerted parents of the new state dashboard last month, after it was unveiled by the MDE.

“We are very positive about the dashboard,” said Michael Behrmann, executive director of elementary education for RCS. “We think it has a lot of good information on a variety of indicators for parents.”

Carrie Lawler, executive director of secondary education for RCS, said the tool gives the community access to a lot of information.

“It is a more user-friendly format for parents to get quick information,” she said.

While Behrmann is hopeful that the dashboard will help spur dialogue between parents and school administrators and staff, he said it also has some limitations.

“There are some limitations that we are pretty confident that the state will be working on. We are giving feedback, and parents have the opportunity to give feedback as well, so they can make some changes,” he said. “In an elementary school, for example, if you want to look at math performance, they crunch grades three, four and five together, so you can’t drill down to that individual grade level.”

Lawler agreed that some of the data on the dashboard can be misleading.

“It’s just not an equal way to represent,” she said. “Say you have the number of expulsions. It compares the school building information to similar schools and then to the state. When they have a similar school in the state, they can be zero percent, but the best that they can indicate for a school itself is less than 5 percent, so even if a school has zero, it still looks like it has more, with the less than 5 percent. But they are working on that.”

Mixed feedback is not unusual for something new, DiSessa said, adding that the site will continue to be updated as new school data becomes available.

“We can certainly improve and update the site as we go,” he said. “This is just phase one. We have a couple of other phases that will be rolling out and will include other new measurements and data in the future.”

Proposed categories include early learning access, access to technology, services to students with disabilities and English language learners, and extracurricular activities.

The Parent Dashboard for School Transparency — a combined effort of the MDE and the Center for Educational Performance and Information — is part of a set of transparency tools that include a state report card, required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act; a school budget and salary/compensation report required by state law; and school, district and statewide data and reports at MISchoolData.org.

DiSessa said the Parent Dashboard is also an integral component of the state’s strategic plan to make Michigan a top 10 education state in 10 years.

“That is our department’s overarching goal right now … and there are a lot of pieces to it, but certainly the Parent Dashboard and bringing more transparency to this data is part of that plan,” DiSessa said.

For more information or to view the Parent Dashboard, visit MISchoolData.org/ParentDashboard.
Call Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at (586) 498-1060.