Lake Shore Public Schools Administrative Center

Lake Shore Public Schools Administrative Center

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State unveils ‘parent dashboard’ for school data

By: Kristyne E. Demske, Mary Beth Almond | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 9, 2018

 Lakeview Public Schools

Lakeview Public Schools

 South Lake Schools

South Lake Schools

ST. CLAIR SHORES — 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.”

Lake Shore Public Schools Superintendent Joe DiPonio said that information is always good, but numbers don’t always tell the entire story.

“The more people try to quantify the impact of a school, the more frustrated I think people will become,” he said. “There’s so many variables that I think play a role in that.”

DiPonio said that numbers on a dashboard or a transparency report won’t overcome parents’ personal feelings about a district or school, so Lake Shore will continue to “focus on making sure each individual child has a good experience, both academically and emotionally.”

“I like what they’ve done. I think it’s an advancement, but I don’t think it’s ever going to be perfect. It’s not a sales industry where you, can say, ‘These are the exact numbers,” DiPonio added. “Both as a superintendent and as a parent, I want to know what is the impact that this classroom is having on my child, but all things are not equal when it comes to education.”

Lakeview Public Schools Superintendent Karl Paulson said that the district “has always been open to transparency, and more information is better,” but that “the flip side of that is, how easy is it for a parent to understand what the information means?”

He said that the portal is actually a bit complex, requiring multiple clicks to get to a certain piece of information. And without any language choice, it could be difficult to navigate for families for whom English is not the primary language to navigate.

Paulson also took issue with the fact that the state has not told districts how it arrived at the numbers it has posted. 

“What is growth? How do they measure it? What data points do they use? What’s the formula?” he said. “They don’t provide that so we can test that.”

South Lake Schools Superintendent Ted Von Hiltmayer said that he likes the format and look of the dashboard, but is concerned that some of the information could be misleading.

“There might not be an instance of something, but there’s still this bar that shows up that shows less than 5 percent — but it’s zero,” he said, for something like a disciplinary action. In addition, he said, the dashboard shows state high school graduation rates on the pages of the elementary schools, even though it says no data is available for graduation rates at the elementary school.

“It’s misleading if you don’t look closely at it,” he said. 

Von Hiltmayer said that he does appreciate that the dashboard compares schools with similar demographics instead of just against state averages. 

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.