- Ed Source reports that California is the first state in the nation to get enhanced school ratings from GreatSchools, an Oakland-based nonprofit that started off as a Silicon Valley school finder for parents moving into the area.
- The improved rating system now includes course access, student progress and equity measures in addition to test scores and other data to help parents choose schools, support educational goals for their children, and help improve schools in their area.
- The new dashboard will help parents be able to identity a school’s strengths and weaknesses, and will offer resources for parents including news articles, videos, newsletters aimed at specific grade levels, and interactive tools related to childhood development.
California's new rating system is among the latest in efforts states are making to provide greater transparency into school performance. The language of these efforts may vary from state to state, with some schools rated on numerical values related to effectiveness and others using letter grade models tied to school proficiency scores. However these measures are presented, two truths will remain: States (and parents) need some way to judge schools as they make decisions about the future, and school superintendents will always rightly point out that the value of a school should not be judged by data alone.
The issue becomes very complicated as the need for transparent measures of school performance are tied into economic realities. The “quality” of a school makes a difference to real estate values. On the other hand, there is a clear correlation between the poverty levels of schools and student achievement. For instance, when North Carolina announced its most recent school grades this year, the State Superintendent Mark Johnson noted that among all schools in 2016-17 that received a D or F, 92.9% had enrollments with at least 50% of students from low-income families. Conversely, among schools that received at least a B, 72.5% had enrollments with less than 50% of students from low-income families.
Though it may seem unfair to “grade” schools when such inequalities exist in the system, the reality is that schools do the same thing to students. Students usually receive grades based on performance without consideration of whether they had breakfast that morning or had a bed to sleep in. Most employees are judged on their performance without consideration of the obstacles they face, either. While schools work to overcome the obstacles they face, the only thing superintendents can do to mitigate the effects of bad news of low performance scores is to engage the public and tell that school’s story through the use of effective public relation strategies. The more the community understands the obstacles a school faces and the positive efforts in that school, the more they will, hopefully, rally to support the students and improve the school’s performance in the process.