More details released about Indiana’s soon-to-launch education dashboard

A soon-to-be-released statewide dashboard will make a vast array of data on Indiana schools and education statistics available to all Hoosiers in one comprehensive website.

Once complete, the new dashboard is expected to be used by lawmakers and education officials to change the state’s approach to K-12 curriculum and school accountability evaluations.

The highly-anticipated Indiana Graduates Prepared to Succeed dashboard is expected to go live to the public this month, although an exact launch date still has not been determined. State officials highlighted the latest developments to the dashboard during a media briefing Tuesday.

Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said the new GPS dashboard will make available more in-depth data about schools and student performance—which will ultimately improve Indiana’s education system and help ensure students are prepared for life after K-12.

The dashboard also intends to help make “a lot of data points in the state”—like student demographic information, enrollment numbers, standardized test performance and college preparedness metrics —more easily accessible for families and school administrators.

“In education, you use a lot of charts and graphs and data, and sometimes that is not easily accessible for the average person. And so we really took that to heart,” Jenner said. “Right now, it’s pretty cumbersome for an individual person or educator or a community leader to have to go to each (state or federal) agency to pull that data. This is really putting everything at one place for a school in a transparent way.”

New dashboard components highlighted

The dashboard website features a “scrollytelling” landing page, which “begins to tell the data story” by outlining key statewide education statistics and explaining the history and purpose behind the data project.

At any time, users can click away from the landing page to immediately search for school-specific data.

From there, the site will feature visual representations of various data pertaining to individual schools and school corporations, as well as measurements for school performance statewide.

For grades K-8, that includes indicators like third grade literacy rates, eighth grade math proficiency, student attendance, 21st Century Scholars enrollment and percentages of students completing advanced coursework. In high school, data is expected to highlight students’ on-track status for graduation, attendance, SAT performance, FAFSA completion rate, college and career coursework, and diploma strengths.

Within each school and school corporation’s own data page, high-level demographic information will be easily visible at the top.

Representatives from the Indiana Department of Education said data on the site can also be filtered by factors such as students on free or reduced-price meal plans, race or ethnicity.

The dashboard indicators were developed after the state board of education approved the selection of five characteristics to indicate a student’s preparation for life after high school: academic mastery, career and postsecondary readiness, communication and collaboration, work ethic, and civic, financial, and digital literacy.

Placing priority on those metrics, the dashboard seeks to help Hoosier schools increase focus on improvement and move away from more punitive actions, like previous state takeovers of under-performing schools.

The Indiana Department of Education describes it as a “paradigm shift in terms of school accountability for Indiana.” It moves away from reliance on state standardized test scores as the basis for judging school quality and success. Critics maintain such tests are more reflective of a school’s poverty level than of actual student achievement.

School superintendents and principals already have access to the data site and are helping state leaders make early improvements to the dashboard.

Jenner said the state education department is already working on future iterations of the dashboard that could go live as early as January. That includes an “advanced option” button for users to access aggregated and longitudinal data about student populations.

“We’re starting to finally talk about the data in the same manner,” Jenner said, emphasizing that education leaders across the state have access to comparable data that wasn’t available before.

Another feature in the works would help dashboard users find ways to access state resources, such as grant dollars for literacy improvement or tutoring.

Lawmakers seek more transparency, accountability

The IDOE developed the dashboard as required by legislation the governor signed last year. The law directs the state agency and state board of education to develop a student performance dashboard that includes multiple measures, including longitudinal data.

During discussion of the bill, state leaders said they’re looking to the dashboard to better measure school and student performance and improvement.

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said the dashboard will additionally help families make decisions about what schools their children should attend, including through the use of state vouchers.

Lawmakers are already beginning to embrace the dashboard.

In October, Indiana’s bipartisan interim education committee approved multiple education bills expected to be filed during the 2023 legislative session.

That includes an anticipated repeal of the annual school corporation performance report, essentially replacing it with data now being collected with the Indiana GPS dashboard.

Some of the dashboard indicators could also be used for school grades in future academic years.

Indiana’s A-F letter grading system for schools has previously calculated grades through a formula adopted by the state board of education. For elementary, grades were based primarily on ILEARN scores. In high school, they’ve been based on state testing, as well as college and career readiness benchmarks.

State lawmakers and the state board of education still have to hash out the details for an impending overhaul of the grading system, however.

Jenner said Tuesday that state education officials “have a lot of policy positions for this session” to announce in the coming weeks. Without saying specifically what those might be, she pointed to “conversations” with the governor and lawmakers about school accountability.

“I think what you’re going to see this coming session is hopefully a robust discussion on, ‘How should (A-F school grading) look in the future, and how can we best set up an environment where we’re really focused on improving our schools?’” Jenner said. “We’ve heard a lot from educators, I know where they stand on the topic of A-F, and it’s very clear. But we really have to take time and understand from parents, families and community leaders on this dashboard and how it translates into A-F.”

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.

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