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Online 'dashboard' provides in-depth information on state's schools

Kirsten Baesler

A new online "education dashboard" gives the public a broader range of information about North Dakota schools, in a format that's easier to navigate than the former system, said State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler.

The ND Insights website, insights.nd.gov, unveiled by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, is part of an effort to bring more transparency and accountability to the state's public schools, Baesler said.

"It tells more of the story of what's going on in our schools," she said. "This is a dynamic dashboard."

The website allows parents and others to "drill down" and find data about individual schools and school districts, including topics such as teacher qualifications.

"You can look up how many teachers in a particular school have a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree," Baesler said. "You can see which schools are 'high-performing' or 'high-growth' schools."

The dashboard, which replaces the the department's online pdf files of the past, is easier for users to navigate, she said

"It shows how schools sit in comparison with others. It provides bigger, better quality of information."

The education dashboard provides a measurement of quality, performance and progress of public schools, Baesler said.

With more school statistics than previously available, the site allows students, parents and community members to "evaluate schools based on their priorities, rather than simply by last year's test scores," Baesler said.

The dashboard goes beyond test scores to offer a broader sense of how students are doing in school, she said. It includes information from a student engagement survey to identify students' enthusiasm for class work and their views on whether they think their time in school is being well spent.

The public can view information such as school enrollment, attendance and graduation rates; students' collective performance on state mathematics and English tests and whether those assessment results have improved over the past two years, she said.

Information is provided on aspects such as the school's arts programming, career and technical education courses, extracurricular offerings and after-school programs.

Each school will use the dashboard data to formulate an improvement plan each year, Baesler said.

School administrators may use it to create more learning opportunities or help students become more fully engaged in school, she said.

"We want to be accountable to our students, taxpayers and parents, our teachers and our administrators," Baesler said.

"This dashboard makes important data about our education system available to any North Dakotan, and we will be adding more information in the future," she said. "This is just a start and first generation of this powerful communication tool."

Information on individual school's financial expenditures will be among updates that will occur in the next year, she said.

Visitors to the site will be able "to look at certain aspects of the operation, such as how much the school district is spending on teachers, specific programs, special education" and related information, she said.

The website is the result of collaborative effort between the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction; the North Dakota Information Technology Department; Otis Educational Systems, Inc., a data management company, and the North Dakota University System.

Accountability is an important reason for developing the dashboard, Baesler said.

"We owe it to our kids, that's the first and primary reason," she said.

"Secondly, North Dakota has a long tradition and history of supporting education as a priority. We owe it to North Dakota to be good stewards of those dollars."

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