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Rock Hill schools create 'dashboard' to aid in test data

When South Carolina releases standardized test results each year, many educators say it's unfair to judge all that happens in schools by a "snapshot" of how students perform on one test.

Yet those scores comprise the centerpiece of what little student achievement information is made public.

Rock Hill school officials hope to add context.

Superintendent Lynn Moody wants to create an online, digital "dashboard" that would give the public a look at some of the district's internal student performance data.

She also wants to include gauges showing how engaged in learning students are and how challenging their work is.

"It's a bold step for our district, to show what we are doing in the schools," said Jennise Knight, a Sullivan Middle School assistant principal working on the project. "It takes a lot of creativity and innovation.

"This gets into the meat of what's going on. Not only what their test scores are, but the academic environment - how they're learning and being challenged."

The dashboard is in its early phase.

Administrators from schools and the district office are working out the details of what it might look like.

Moody wants to focus on three areas:

What and whether students are learning

How challenging their work is

Whether they're engaged

The design is expected to resemble the gauges on a car dashboard.

The team is considering what to include under each category, how to accurately measure the benchmarks and how to present that to the public.

Some areas are simpler than others. Under learning, student test scores over time provide a hard, objective look at whether they're making progress. But not all grades are tested.

Harder to determine is how engaged students are and how to present that data in an easily understood format.

One option is surveying students and families.

Other measures could include teachers' self-assessments and testimonials, Knight said.

The next step is to narrow the ideas, Moody said. "Everybody sees it a little differently ... People have such strong opinions."

Moody plans to launch the dashboard on the district's website by December. It would be a district-wide look that gets updated periodically through the year. Student performance data would be anonymous.

Eventually, Moody said, each school likely would post a public dashboard.

School board member Jim Vining wants a version up as soon as possible so the public could offer feedback.

If it's not perfect, he said, the district could use that input to tweak it.

"The important thing is just getting the measures out there," he said.