New ‘dashboard’ promises easier access to school data

Parents and educators who are used to paging through multiple city websites to unearth school performance data can now find most of that information in one searchable database.

On Tuesday evening, the city education department launched a new “School Performance Dashboard” that centralizes everything from test scores to graduation rates and lets users compare them to student data pulled from the rest of the city, local school district, and groups of similar students scattered across the system.

Though none of the data sets are new, officials hope the new portal will offer a more user-friendly view than was previously available by searching multiple documents like School Quality Guides and Snapshots, which are housed on each school’s website.

Officials said it is the first time the education department is releasing an interactive tool that lets users create more customized snapshots of school performance.

Navigating through drop-down menus, for instance, the dashboard is capable of sorting through several measures on everything from Regents scores to completion rates for science classes. It also lets users break the data down into subgroups such as English language learners, students with disabilities, or race.

Each dashboard report is only two pages long, and some sections are color-coded to give users a quick sense of whether a given school is performing better than average on measures like attendance, credit accumulation, and postsecondary enrollment. The education department is hoping the new dashboard will help parents assess the quality of different schools, and give educators a way of clearly seeing how their schools stack up against similar student populations elsewhere.

The new way of presenting school data comes just two weeks after the city expanded separate source of school assessment data (called School Quality Snapshots) to include transfer schools, which serve students who have previously dropped out, and District 75, which serves students with disabilities. Advocates had criticized education officials for leaving those schools out.

Still, the new dashboard comes with a similar caveat: Programs in District 75, transfer schools and schools that only serve kindergarten through third grade will not immediately be searchable. They will be added this coming fall, officials said.

“The School Performance Dashboard is the most advanced tool of its kind,” schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement, “and I look forward to seeing it used to improve instruction and student outcomes.”