When Mosi Zuberi learned that his 18-year-old son, Kaja, might not graduate from McClymonds High School in Oakland, he anguished over his parenting missteps, wondering where he had gone wrong. Yet, after seeing school data from the California School Dashboard and learning that close to one-fifth of McClymonds’ students were not graduating, he mentally shifted some accountability to the school, seeing a systemic failure to meet the needs of all students.
Zuberi, like many parents across the country, felt he could have been a better advocate for his child had data about the school been more explicit and easier to find.
Data has become particularly relevant for parents whose children attend low-performing schools. It can answer questions about school safety, disciplinary actions taken against certain student groups, graduation rates, attendance and academic performance. Several parents with children in low-performing schools view a child’s academic struggles as an individual responsibility — their child’s fault, or their own — but access to and understanding of school data can help them identify broader problems. For example, is only their child reading below grade-level or are a majority of the students? With better understanding, they can take action — invest in a tutor if the problem is isolated, for example, or demand that their district spend more on reading programs if the issue is widespread.
Many parents, however, experience educational, technological and language barriers to accessing and understanding data, limiting their ability to make informed decisions about their children.