Dashboard rating a step in the right direction

School ranking is not a trivial matter; it helps concerned parents decide which school will best educate their kids, and can sometimes influence the real estate values of houses surrounding the school. As such an important thing, this ranking should not depend on test scores like the SBAAC — for which many students don’t study.

The California Department of Education is currently in the midst of the test run of its new system to rank schools, the California School Dashboard. This Dashboard, showing percentages of things like graduation rates, is supposed to be more representative of students’ experiences at each school. While suspension rates may provide insight into a school’s disciplinary challenges, it is not necessarily very representative of the educational opportunities a school offers.

Education is what you make of it; a student cannot go to a top-rated school and expect to automatically have a fruitful educational experience, or have a terrible learning experience at a lower-ranked school. First, not all teachers at schools are the same. For example, some teachers may work daily to ensure that all of their students graduate, while others may exhibit a more laidback attitude.

Second, even if students attend a poorly-rated school, they can supplement their daily lessons with individual learning — sure, they must exhibit extra initiative in terms of their education, but it is still possible for them to graduate and attend a university. After all, high schools are not the same as colleges; while college degrees from certain schools may be considered more valuable than the same degree from other schools, such is not the case with high schools. Colleges do look at things like average SAT scores and AP classes offered at schools, but not things that the Dashboard is focusing on, like suspension rate or English learner progress.

Though it’s nice that California is working to ensure a more holistic, accurate rating of each of its schools, such ratings as the Status and Change report may result in students’ preconceived notions shaping their behavior towards school.