Using the Michigan school data dashboard
June 25, 2020
The State of Michigan has created a website that allows parents to review data from any school in Michigan. The website is called MI School Data (www.mischooldata.org) and the dashboard is called the Parent Dashboard. Each school has demographic information, address, phone number, the name of principal and superintendent, and other relevant information listed under its profile. Access to this information is available on every school website and at https://www.mischooldata.org/ParentDashboard/ParentDashboardHome.aspx.
There are several pieces of data for parents to evaluate, much of which gives insight into the general academic performance. All of this data is collected from state standardized tests given in the spring of the year prior. Currently, data posted is based on testing conducted in Spring 2019. Additionally, the results shared on the parent dashboard are an aggregate average for all students, in all grades and in all subjects. The dashboard has a tool labeled “Student Group” that allows parents to break down the data to view this average, aggregate performance for particular groups of students in more detail.
Parents can search by individual school, and the first page is an overview of the data for that school. Each piece of data has a question mark icon that when clicked, provides an explanation of what the data represents. Each category shows the average performance for students in the selected school as compared to similar schools and the State of Michigan average. Clicking on the Average of Similar Schools by Student Characteristics link in the key will list the schools that were used for comparison. These schools are selected based on student demographics and school size and may include schools that are hundreds of miles away from the selected school. As an example, Renaissance High School in Detroit is considered ‘similar’ to Alpena High School in Alpena based on student demographics. If you would like to switch this similar schools list to the closest schools, select “Distance” instead of “Student Characteristics.”
On the left side of the webpage, there are links to additional data. This data includes school offerings and more detailed data about the students and staff. Each of these sections can offer parents more context and more specific information about the school. Lastly, there is a section called the School Index. This index score gives each school a score out of 100 based on several key performance indicators. Clicking on the link within each box will allow parents to see how that score was calculated. The overall school index gives an idea of how each school is performing holistically, based on the categories that the State has considered important. This information can be very helpful, but you should examine the formulas and filters to ensure that the measurements and preferences reflect your priorities. As an example, when evaluating a high school, some parents might think the most important piece of data is high school graduation rate and think that this piece of data should count for 50% of the overall index score. The actual overall index score uses high school graduation rates as 11% of the final index score, but counts growth for 38%, performance for 33%, and school quality factors like on track attendance, advanced coursework and postsecondary enrollment for 16% of the score.
When evaluating the information, parents take into account that the data represents a small but important indicator of school performance. All of the data considered for academic performance is based on state standardized tests (MStep, SAT, etc) that were taken in the spring of the previous academic year. Additionally, the numbers presented are averages for the school overall. So, parents can use this information as a starting point and generate questions to ask the school in search of more specific information relevant to their child. Lastly, this data presents one important dimension of the school’s offerings and performance. However, it does not tell you anything about the culture and experience of a school, which one can get only by visiting (in person or virtually) and talking to school personnel. Using this data, along with what you learn through your own exploration of different schools, will help you make the most thorough and balanced choice when selecting a school for your child.