Report cards that detail test scores, expulsion rates, teacher salaries and other information on San Diego Unified schools are tardy once again, making it harder for them to serve their supposed purpose.

Under state law, the reports are supposed to be done by February to help parents make decisions about where to send their children to school. Parents in San Diego Unified are supposed to submit applications soon if they want their child to go to another school, instead of just sticking with their neighborhood school.

But San Diego Unified has sought permission from the state to put off finishing the reports until April, months after choices are made, saying that the state has given it too little time to put them together. As of this morning, the report cards weren’t up on the school district website.

This isn’t the first time the report cards have been late: I first wrote about the overdue report cards three years ago. Back then, San Diego Unified was finishing them up in late July, just weeks before California released new, updated test scores that made them obsolete, and months after parents apply to transfer their children to different schools. Here’s what I wrote then:

Using the report cards, a parent can review test scores, class sizes, and attendance rates at a glance, and choose which school they prefer. If they worry about school discipline and safety, they might compare expulsion rates and safety plans; if they want experienced teachers, they could see how much the schools spend on teacher salaries, which correspond roughly to seniority. Others might read the mission statements to see if the schools’ principles match their own.

But two decades later, the evaluations have been bloated by a smattering of state and federal laws that ask schools to load the reports with more and more data. … School districts must issue the reports during the school year, but the increased demands have sometimes delayed the reports. Those delays can make the report cards obsolete, said Carmen Russian, who directs the San Diego office of the Parent Institute for Quality Education.

The reports came in late again last year, after the state moved up the deadline from the end of the school year to February. School district staff said part of the problem was that California gave school districts the data it needed to create the reports late.

This year, California failed to provide much of the data that needs to be included in the report cards, which it usually supplies to school districts. San Diego Unified had to collect that information itself. That’s why the school district asked the state for more time. Ron Rode, who oversees accountability in San Diego Unified, said the district hopes to get the report cards done within the next week or two.

This might all seem like a lot of silly carping about a bureaucratic deadline. But if the report cards come out after parents have chosen schools, they can’t serve the purpose they were supposed to — and just end up being a chore for school districts. If that happens, it might not make sense to do them at all.

I’d like to hear from parents: Do you actually use these report cards, or do they come out too late to be useful? Have you already made your decisions about where to send your kids to school anyway? And if not, should California keep requiring school districts to devote time to putting them together?

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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