Wednesday, November 7

Progress reports: "complete and fair" or "just more numbers"?

At this point so much has been said all over the Web about the progress report grades that I don't know what I can add. For once, the Times, the Post, the Daily News, and the Sun were editorially united; they all critiqued the plan by identifying good schools with low grades and lousy schools with high grades. Parents at desirable schools that received low grades are up in arms and the DOE is threatening failing schools with "consequences" that could include closure or principal replacement -- but as the Times notes this morning, despite the chatter, it's not at all clear right now what the grades really mean for parents or even for schools.

Here are a few especially sensible comments I've read about the grades. In the comments, feel free to nominate your own candidates for the Non-Hysterical School Grade Analysis Award.

On the New York Times City Room blog, a teacher writes,

This system for rating schools is the most complete and fair way they have ever been rated by the city or state. ... Grading schools may help the city understand how its educators are faring at the difficult task of bringing the thousands of under-educated students in NYC up to grade level. It does not, however, give parents much relevant information about what school is actually best for their child.
A recent PS 87 parent writes,
I think it’s great that the administration is assessing schools based on various criteria. These evaluations can supplement reputation, impressions based on visiting, and test scores alone for judging the quality of a school. And they’re not only a useful resource for helping parents to evaluate schools–they should help schools like P.S. 87 identify ways of improving. On the other hand, the emphasis on “consquences” for poorly performing schools is disheartening. Are these schools supposed to be scared into performing better? Shutting down a weak school will only increase the overall quality of NYC’s education if weak administrators, teachers, and students disappear. But that doesn’t happen–they are simply moved elsewhere!
And one more from the New York Times:
Why is this new grading system the “linchpin” of the Bloomberg/Klein administration? ... The schools, through NCLB, already are measured for Adequate Yearly Progress. So, why millions and millions more that could have been spent IN the classroom, to come up with this incredibly flawed methodology?
Louise at Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn writes,

What does it mean?

Something and nothing. You know your school and you know whether it's any good or not. No report card score is going to tell you anything that you don't already know.

Ms. Frizzle, a blogger who teaches at a middle school that received an "A" grade, writes,
One thing that sticks out in my head is that there is supposedly a computer program designed to help schools analyze their results to determine which actions are likely to achieve the greatest improvements in the data. (The idea is to prevent situations where principals throw a ton of resources at a problem identified in the school environment survey, improve that result, but find out later that because of the weighting it made very little difference in the overall school report). So you need a program to help you analyze the analysis? That seems like a waste of resources to me. Find a way to report data so that it is clear and comprehensible and paints a picture of what needs to change. Otherwise, it’s just more numbers.

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