Leadership magazine March/April 2018 V47 No. 4 | Page 19

Index of the past with just one number, the Dashboard denotes performance over time, rather than just the current status of its six state indicators, including high school grad- uation rates, academic performance, suspen- sions, English learner progress, preparation for college/career, and chronic absentee- ism. Likewise, four local indicators collect information on implementation of state standards, school climate surveys, parent involvement/engagement, and basic con- ditions, such as teacher qualifications, safe campuses, and access to textbooks. The Dashboard’s Equity Report shows – at a glance – how student groups are performing on various measures. Student groups include ethnic and racial groups, low-income students, English learners, fos- ter youth and students with special needs. Looking at more data – and more mean- ingful information – helps more precisely identify a district or school’s strengths and weaknesses and highlights performance gaps between groups of learners. Mary Ann Valles, assistant superinten- dent of educational services in the Napa Val- ley Unified School District, sees the Dash- board as a positive change for California. “The new accountability system uses mul- tiple measures to assess a district or school’s progress,” she said. “We are encouraged by an accountability system that recognizes a variety of indicators, including academic progress on state assessments, college and ca- reer readiness, school climate and safety. We are also encouraged by an accountability sys- tem that recognizes improvement over time.” Tailor the message and the rule of three When it comes to the Dashboard data, particularly around student achievement and suspensions, what do you want to say? The average listener and reader can grasp three concepts in any presentation or article, so the important focus is on the central mes- sage and the rule of three with which you will support it. Let’s say you are working to address a dis- proportionate number of students who have been suspended. Crafting your message should start with an acknowledgement as well as three supporting points: The average listener and reader can grasp three concepts in any presentation, so the important focus is on the central message and the rule of three with which you will support it. • Key Message: The Dashboard is helping us better analyze data and address how we are working through issues of student be- havior, and supports our students and staff need to intervene before arriving at the level of suspensions. • Supporting Point #1: By looking at best practices around addressing behavior, our school leadership teams of teachers and ad- ministrators are redirecting their attention to alternatives to suspension. • Supporting Point #2: Using the PBIS approach (positive behavior interventions and support), our staff is catching students making good choices, and reinforcing those as levels of intervention prior to suspension. • Supporting Point #3: In just the first four months of this school year, we have seen a decrease of 20 percent in our suspension data over the same time period of the last two years based on intentional conversations and change in practice. What’s important to remember is that messages don’t exist in vacuums, but are fluid and impacted by the everyday happenings in our schools. Clear messaging with specific points that are intended to help educate our communities, even those beyond our par- ents, will help us more effectively utilize the Dashboard data to improve practices. Denny Rush, superintendent of the New- castle Elementary School District, shared that it is not only important to explain the performances in all focus areas, but to get out there first with our messages. “We must be proactive and deliberate,” she said. “Educating the public is critical to avoid misinterpretation of the Dashboard data.” Know your audience You know the old saying that “the cus- tomer is never wrong”? The same goes for the audience, even if they are. There is no sense in arguing or getting defensive. Instead, you have to meet them where they are and help them activate new knowledge. From the way we budget to the way we assess students, the system of public education is complicated. Step into the shoes of Joe Public and try to understand the prior API scores or even how the governor’s mid-year budget message has the ability to affect programs and people midstream. Map your messages. Know who you want to communicate with and adapt those mes- sages for different recipients. The most stra- tegic approach is to think like a CSI inves- tigator: profile your audience. Crafting an audience profile is a great way to determine how to connect your Dashboard messages. The most effective way to do this is to focus on one group at a time and ask the fol- lowing questions: • What is their knowledge or familiarity with the new accountability system and its purpose? • What is their interest or investment and why should they care? • Do they already have an opinion on the subject? How do they feel about the school March | April 2018 19