Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Letter to Chancellor Klein on the Report Cards

Dear Chancellor Klein,

My name is Seth Pearce. I am a senior at LaGuardia High School and a member of the NYC Student Union (, a citywide, student-run and created, education advocacy organization. I am writing to you to express both my support for your new school Progress Report program and my criticism of some of its parts.

At last week's NYC Student Union meeting, students from schools around the City discussed the Progress Reports. Some students supported them and others didn't. There was, however, a general agreement on the need for accountability in our schools. These Progress Reports bring added accountability and transparency to our City's schools. They help give valuable information to our City's parents. The most important benefit of the Progress Reports might be increased involvement from these parents who now have a clearer view of what's going on their children's schools.

While I support the principle of the Progress Reports, I also believe that the system needs revision. A large problem with your report card is the small amount of influence the Learning Environment section has on the overall score. Attendance is also as a major indicator of school performance. Students who go to bad schools will probably go to school less often and vice versa. If students are in the habit of going to school it is more likely that they will progress academically and proceed to the next level of education. Surveys should also play a larger role because parents, students and teachers have the most direct insight into the schools output.

I would also like to say that while standardized test scores deserve a place in the Progress Report they are given too much value in this system. While they provide some insight into student performance, they are inadequate and distract from the real business of education: teaching and learning. Emphasis on these tests also devalues the roles teacher and student. Furthermore, the need for constant progress to succeed in their progress reports is unrealistic for high performing schools and can actually distract them from the great work they are doing. In my mind the importance of progress for these purposes should be taken on the sliding scale determined by a school's previous performance, e.g. progress would more important for low performing schools.

Thank you for taking the time to hear a student's opinion. If you ever want to read some student commentary about our school system, check out the NYC Students Blog at or stop by at one of our Monday meetings.

Have a nice day,

Seth Pearce


Louis said...

Seth- i think it would a good idea to post their response.
Also let me echo sentiments that i have read supporting your letter and its contentions.

Seth said...

And the Response as requested:

Seth, thank you for your thoughtful letter and for directly me to your blog. I have asked Jim Liebman, our Chief Accountability Officer, to be in touch with you to discuss the issues you raise.

Regards, Joel Klein