Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Student Thought: Report Card Report Card


What does this grade mean?
Your [The Department of Education's Report Card program's] overall score ranks within the 45th-85th percentile among accountability strategies for an incomparably large school system. Although this is a step in the right direction for accountability and is necessary in a system this large, some of the factors you grade schools on are a little misguided.

School Environment- Out of 15%
A large problem with your report card is the meager amount of influence this section has on the overall score. Attendance should be seen 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 great insight into the schools output.

Student Performance- Out of 30%
High Stakes testing is not a great way of measuring results. Test-taking requires an entirely different skill-set from learning. Its emphasis also reduces the amount of actual teaching and learning that takes place in our schools. However, it is still the most feasible way of assessing student performance and deserves to be a factor (albeit a smaller one) in a school's overall grade.

Student Progress- Out of 55%
Measuring student progress is a toughie and the McGraw Hill period assessments are a great way of doing it. Maybe with ARIS you can track a students grades and how they've improved or worsened over time. Also: Tracking a students progress from 8th to 9th grade is ridiculous and impossible. Puberty and the transition to high school make expecting all students (especially boys) to progress academically is unrealistic. After being a really good student in middle school it took me until my sophomore year to really get back on track. This section should bear less weight.

Additional Credit
I have to agree with Errol Louis on this one. It is a step in the right direction. Hopefully these assessment will show over time that principal empowerment is a good idea (as it has been at LaGuardia). Accountability is necessary. These report cards help spread the information to the public and let parents get a better picture on how their school is doing. However, the factors of assessment and their weights need heavy revision. Also, the system of relative letter grades will help the DoE and the other education wonks out there learn more about the benefits of competition between public schools in a system as large as New York's.

Joel Klein's new report card system gets a B. It's an interesting and well-intentioned concept but like Joel Klein's other programs, it is most definitely a work in progress.


Louis said...

I just wanted to congratulate you Seth on a job well done. I actually have been eagerly anticipating your re-posting this piece (it was earlier posted on Inside School's blog) for me to share these thoughts. I am also very proud to be the one to say that i am not alone in appreciating your work and insight in this piece- the New York Time's City Room blog linked to it at Inside Schools yesterday afternoon. I am extremely proud to see a piece of this caliber from a fellow high school student.

Seth said...

Thank you very much Louis.