Michigan joins national debate over the best way to measure school performance
- In Michigan, as in other parts of the nation, state education officials and lawmakers are debating the best way to provide information to parents and the public about schools, with some favoring an assigned letter grade similar to those given to students and others favoring a 1-100 index of school quality, Chalkbeat reports.
- The state recently unveiled a “parent dashboard” for schools but for now, is planning to add an index of school quality that will assign each school a number ranging from 1 to 100 based on seven factors including test scores, graduation rates, availability of extracurricular activities, and proficiency rates for English learners.
- However, many Republican lawmakers argue that the index is too complex and that an A-F grading system measuring six aspects of the school is easier for parents to understand.
The current focus on measuring school performance has many educators and lawmakers debating the value and impact of different performance measures. Some people are concerned that the emphasis on performance measures is tempting administrators to participate in or, at least condone, unethical practices such as in the Atlanta cheating scandal and the D.C. graduation scandal. However, educators and lawmakers need some way to measure how well a school is doing, what support it needs, and whether it is moving in the right direction. Just as teachers use assessments to determine how well a student is performing, states also need some way to measure school performance. The nature of that measure is clearly up for debate.
Parents also need ways to judge schools, especially as school choice options increase. However, test scores are not always the most important measure in a parent’s mind. Other factors such as location and ease of access play a role. Student needs and interests also are a factor. For instance, a student athlete, musician, artist or STEM enthusiast will gravitate to schools strongest in those areas. And English learners and parents of students with special needs will have different priorities in mind. For most parents, school safety and climate are primary concerns, especially in the wake of recent school tragedies.
That is why the dashboards used in many states such as California and North Carolina are gaining in popularity. These dashboards provide a wide variety of information about school achievement and culture and help parents make better informed decisions. While lawmakers need to craft solutions that allow schools to provide multiple measures of information that reflect the school as a whole, administrators also need to be fair and accurate in portraying what is best about their schools and what still needs improvement.