We live in a society that is dominated by the quest for “winning,” whether the “winning” is in the world of sports, or reality TV shows or in the stock market. Schools are no different.
For years we ranked and published reading scores by school. The newspapers dutifully interviewed the “winner,” usually some small elementary school in District 26 and the “loser,” some school in Brownsville or the Bronx. The “winners” and “losers” were defined by zip code, and, poverty. The “winner” was a school surrounded by expensive private homes and the ‘losers” were at the center of some of the poorest areas of the city.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was an attempt to create a national assessment of school progress. The goal of NCLB was for all students to reach proficiency by 2014, and, each state, in grades 3-8 was required to test students, and measure Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) toward that goal.
Schools that failed to make their AYP were in jeopardy of interventions that could lead to redesign, closing, conversion to Charter status or being run by private management organizations.
While the “baby step” States crow about meeting and exceeding AYP, grades on the “gold standard,” the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were poor. A sharp discrepancy shows the failure of NCLB.
NCLB is a “photograph” of school data at a particular time. Unfortunately since the only measurement is proficiency, the location of the school, the zip code, is frequently the determining factor.
A growth model is a more complex, but, a more meaningful measurement.
The NYC School Progress Report is an attempt to combine proficiency and growth.
Unfortunately it is deeply flawed.
As Diane Ravitch shows schools that are SINI (Schools In Need of Improvement), schools in jeopardy of closing, received grades of “A” and “B” on the DOE Progress Reports, and, conversely, highly successful schools, as defined by NCLB, received grades of “D” and “F.”
The NY Times reports on a “persistently violent school,” clearly in chaos, and receives a grade of “A.”
Norm Fruchter in an Education Week article cogently points to the difference between audit and inspection.
The teacher union leader, Randi Weingarten also rebukes the DOE assessment tool and encourages urges improvements (http://edwize.org/report-cards-for-our-public-schools).
We need a system that produces meaningful data about schools, data that will be understandable to parents and can inform decision-making within schools.
Whether on the national level or in NYC punitive assessment of schools does not improve schools. All schools want to be “winners,” we need a system that is highly transparent, that involves all the stakeholders, that is guided by the school district, that offers the opportunity to build capacity over time, and, yes, has consequences.
A lame duck Mayor with no oversight is not the answer. Hopefully the State legislature, with input from the entire school community, can create a system which makes us all “winners.”