Have you seen the new CH-UH City School District dashboard?
If not, you should take a look – especially if you’re someone who tends to be critical of public schools in general or this district specifically, or who tends not to vote for levies.
In business, dashboards are management tools. They provide an immediate view of how things are running by focusing in on a select set of key performance indicators. Just like the dashboard on a car, a management dashboard will tell you if things are running smoothly. And if something starts to go wrong, it won’t necessarily tell you what’s broken but it will give you an early warning that there’s a problem.
A couple things make the CH-UH dashboard notable.
First is its very existence. It represents a big change in the way the district is working these days to be fully integrated with the community. It is trying to engage not just the ardent supporters of public education, but everyone here who pays for and benefits from a strong public school system.
Second is the set of key performance indicators selected for this dashboard. By including metrics on student suspensions and college readiness, the school district clearly hasn’t built this dashboard for the purpose of emphasizing happy statistics.
One of the most consistent complaints I hear from people who are uncomfortable with the CH-UH district is about student behavior. People don’t like the look of rowdy kids after school lets out, wandering Cedar-and-Lee in sagging pants and flat-brimmed baseball caps; they don’t like reading police-blotter reports about fights and disturbances. For many, the dashboard data – that 674 students were suspended in the first half of this school year – will merely confirm the fear that our schools are full of thugs. But the huge increase in suspensions from last year also points to a serious effort to enforcing the rules and improving behavior in school.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the one thing people expect our schools to do is prepare kids for the future – which in our increasingly white-collar world generally means college.
The percentage of Heights graduates who are planning for college is less than impressive – about half. By putting that metric in the dashboard, the district is showing all of us that it intends to be measured by the success of its efforts to improve that ratio.
The district dashboard isn’t the only set of metrics that are important to the schools. The state’s annual report card obviously matters a lot.
But with large budget cuts coming from the state, it’s clear that all public school districts need to become closer to their communities – because they’re going to need to start asking for more, and larger, levies.
I’m not saying that the district’s new dashboard should necessarily satisfy the concerns of everyone who has opposed past levies. But it should make clear that the district has heard the concerns of the community; that it is working to address those concerns; and that it is willing to be transparent and accountable.