Press Release

Statement in Response to the California School Dashboard Release

OAKLAND, Calif. — In response to the release of the California School Dashboard, The Education Trust—West released the following statement: 

Yesterday, the California Department of Education (CDE) released the 2021-22 California School Dashboard, the state’s tool that shows how schools, districts, and county offices of education are serving the over 6 million students enrolled in our K-12 education system. This is the first time since 2019 that the dashboard has been updated, representing a “restart” to the state’s accountability system in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We applaud the CDE for relaunching the dashboard with adjustments to accommodate for the lack of year-over-year comparisons usually included in the tool and for making the dashboard available in a variety of languages. The latter especially is an improvement from prior years that helps ensure the dashboard provides parents and educators with the information they need to make informed decisions about the education of millions of California’s students.

The Education Trust—West has evaluated some of the data in the Dashboard. Our conclusions are below.

Chronic Absenteeism

Across the state, the average rate of chronic absenteeism (the number of students who missed 10% of the days they were enrolled for any reason) for students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 rose alarmingly from 14.3% in 2020-21 to 30% in 2021-22. That statewide average masks significant equity gaps in rates of chronic absenteeism: 

  • 37% of low-income students, roughly 939,000 students, were chronically absent (up from 18% in 2020-21).
  • 34% of English Learners, over 318,000 students, were chronically absent (up from 15% in 2020-21).
  • 44% of Pacific Islander students, 43% of African American students, 43% of American Indian students, 36% of Hispanic students, and 11.5% of Asian students were chronically absent, representing large increases across all racial/ethnic groups since 2020-21.

These results are striking, but so are the circumstances from which they came. The COVID-19 virus rendered many Californian students too ill or potentially infectious to attend school—and communities of color were hit hardest. For large portions of the past three years, “going to school” meant logging onto a computer, yet nearly six in ten parents who earn lower incomes reported concerns about affording internet access. And if students were able to attend school, distance learning often meant isolation, boredom, and stress. Now, students need the opposite: engaging, rigorous, culturally relevant instruction, particularly in math. If schools succeed in doing so, we expect to see improvements in attendance rates, along with better learning outcomes.

Graduation Rates

The four-year “cohort” graduation rate (the number of students who started as ninth graders and graduated with their peers four years later) increased from 83.6% in 2020–21 to 87% in 2021-22. Despite this increase, when graduation rate data is disaggregated by student group on the dashboard, it’s clear that equity gaps between groups remain:

  • The graduation rate for low-income students was 85.1%, representing an increase since 201819 (the last time this data was released on the dashboard), when it was 83.2%. 
  • The graduation rate for English Learners was 73.3%, up from 72.6% in 2018-19.
  • The graduation rates for African American (79.5%), American Indian (79.6%), Hispanic (85.3%), and Asian (95.2%) students all inched upward from the 2018-19 rate.
  • The graduation rate of 85.2% for Pacific Islander students remained nearly unchanged compared to 2020-21, at 85%.

While there have been small improvements in graduation rates, we must close the equity gaps we see in this data. The challenges of the pandemic have derailed learning for many students of color; we cannot allow them to halt their educational journeys altogether. Fortunately, California has already made important investments that should be used on proven strategies, such as dual enrollment, and should also be targeted toward the students who need it most.

Schools have received billions in state and federal funding to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic––and it must be used effectively to close the equity gaps reflected in this year’s School Dashboard data. Above all, using these funds wisely requires including student, family, and community voices in spending decisions. The past few years have only demonstrated how closely linked a child’s school, home, and community are. Those links were critical to managing the challenges of the past three years, and they can be the source of tremendous strides toward healing, growth, and equity in the years to come.

For more on what California schools can do to ensure that all students thrive—which requires prioritizing racial justice in order to close persistent equity gaps—please read Moving Forward Together: A Policy Agenda for Racial Equity in California Education Systems in 2023.

About the Education Trust–West 

The Education Trust–West works for educational justice and the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-K through college, in the state of California. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.