Over the past decade, Californians have learned a lot about the academic performance of our students, thanks in large part to data collected from school districts. We now know, for example, the following:
The achievement gap between African-American eighth graders and their white peers has increased statewide over the past seven years in English Language Arts; that Asian students, in general, are high-performing, but that certain subgroups of Asian students, including Laotian and Samoan students, are silently struggling; and that in certain school districts, Latino and African-American students have equitable access to college-ready coursework, while in other school districts they are disproportionately being denied access to the courses that public universities require.
All of this data has armed parents, community members, advocates, and policymakers with the information they need to make better decisions on behalf of students. And this kind of information is just the beginning. With new and better ways of collecting data, we now know our state’s dropout rate is 21.5%, at least 8 percentage points higher than we previously thought. And this year, we will know for the first time the state’s true four-year graduation rate. Yet, if Governor Jerry Brown’s most recent budget revision is adopted, the future collection of such data is at risk.
Over the last eight years, the state has been building a longitudinal student data system known as CALPADS. This system is being built in response to federal requirements that each state be able to track enrollment history and achievement data over time for individual students. Since 2005, each student in California has been assigned a unique, anonymous identification number that school districts use to submit data to the state about each student’s enrollment, demographics, achievement and more. All of this student-level data will ultimately be housed in CALPADS, which is now nearing completion. This year, almost every district used CALPADS to report their enrollment, and will soon use it to report the other data as well.