State and National Peer Comparison of High School Data: Why Is It Useful?
Gil Compton, director of college and career readiness, education services, for the Riverside County Office of Education, shares his perspective.
In this final part of a four-part series, Gil Compton, director of college and career readiness, education services for the Riverside County Office of Education, further describes how Riverside County uses StudentTracker® for High Schools to improve students’ postsecondary outcomes.
At the Clearinghouse, we have been hearing from postsecondary institutions requests for peer comparison, not only within their states, but also across state lines. For example, colleges and universities want to understand if a school is just like them in Nebraska, even if they happen to be in Louisiana. The Clearinghouse asked Compton how relevant that kind of data would be for Riverside County.
Riverside County includes 23 school districts and 103 traditional and alternative high schools. Of the county’s more than 425,000 students, 63 percent are economically disadvantaged, and 21 percent are English learners. Would it be helpful to have a more national view of other districts with the same size, location, and demographic makeup to have a basis for comparison?
“With regard to Riverside County, or within one of our school districts, knowing how we compare across the state or across the nation is very powerful,” Compton said. “Not for accountability, necessarily, but we always like to see the scorecard.”
As part of a recent improvement initiative, Riverside County recently performed an analysis that ranked high schools in California and organized them by size, demographics, and courses offered. Compton and his team connected with the principals of schools that were outperforming those in Riverside County.
“It was really interesting to glean information from those schools’ strengths by calling the principals and asking, ‘What are you doing?’” he said. Asking questions and getting pieces of information helped Compton think about Riverside County school performance in a new way.
For example, two of the top schools in the analysis used a block schedule, which was something that Compton had been considering. He thought students would benefit from some extended learning, but the teaching staff had a different perspective.
What moved the needle? Data. “I said to my staff, ‘rather than having a philosophical argument about this, let’s look at the data.’ Comparing schools and academic performance based on key indicators will allow us to communicate, break down silos, and improve.”
Comparative data enables schools and school districts to put aside differences and focus on the strategies and techniques that really work. And that, Compton said, is an idea everyone can get behind.
“With regard to Riverside County, or within one of our school districts, knowing how we compare across the state or across the nation is very powerful.”
Director of college and career readiness, education services, Riverside County Office of Education