Giving Compass' Take:
- An online tool identifies school districts that have the conditions to measure student outcomes adequately.
- How can this tool help philanthropy target investments to districts that need support?
- Read more about the plight of poorer school districts.
What is Giving Compass?
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My organization works with plenty of districts across the nation with similar problems. These highly unstable districts capture all the press attention and aren’t hard to find.
Finding districts with the organizational strengths of Garden Grove and Long Beach is more challenging. The research on these and other high-performing districts highlights aspects of their models that aren’t quantifiable like “strategic coherence.” But they also exhibit conditions that are quantifiable like superintendent stability, strong financial practices and low teacher turnover.
To create a system to better measure these qualities, with the support of several California foundations, we started to search for additional indicators that could be part of an index measuring overall organizational health, areas of strength and need, and identifying exemplar districts.
After talking to experts in education finance, labor relations, district leadership, and parent and community organizing, we established five categories for our index — community, finance, leadership, personnel and workplace. But once we started looking for indicators in these categories, we came up with way too many — over 250 at first count.
We culled this list by deciding that any indicator had to be actionable, publicly accessible and evidence-driven. This meant that my favorite indicator of school district health or dysfunction — the average length of a school board meeting — didn’t make the cut. Even though some of the usual suspects like Los Angeles, Sacramento and Oakland Unified topped the list for board meeting length, there’s sadly no research evidence that shorter board meetings result in better organizational health or student outcomes.
Once we narrowed down our indicators, our research team began collecting data. California has a rich set of data sources that allow for longitudinal data collection such as CALPADS and district Local Control and Accountability Plans, or LCAPs. Unfortunately, this data has never been analyzed and compiled in a single place that is accessible to the public.
Now it is. Last month, we launched the District Readiness Index, a free online tool that measures whether a school district has the necessary conditions to sustain and scale improvement in student outcomes.
Read the full article about district readiness by Arun Ramanathan at EdSource.