Expanded Measures of School Performance
In anticipation of an ESEA reauthorization, policymakers are beginning to rethink which factors should be included in federal school-performance reporting. Enter this latest from RAND, which pushes the discussion along by explaining how states, districts, and other countries report school performance. At the state level, there are currently twenty jurisdictions that publish their own school ratings in addition to federal AYP. While the rating systems vary in detail, they all strongly rely on student testing—using assessment scores in subjects beyond ELA and math (usually science and history), tests weighted on a continuum (rather than a pass-fail mark), and ACT or AP scores (at the high school level). RAND analysts see merit in these metrics, but also push for expanding them beyond such “student outcome data” to assess the whole school culture. To that end, RAND showcases districts and states reporting school-culture indicators (like teacher and student satisfaction) and emotional, behavioral, and physical health indicators (like suspensions). Why is this necessary? As the authors aver, it is widely accepted that NCLB’s emphasis on AYP forced schools and districts to overemphasize testing. Using these expanded school-performance indicators might encourage schools to prioritize college and career readiness, school safety, civil-mindedness, and student health. While RAND is right to say that school-based accountability needs to be rethought, their push for adoption of such a broad slate of measures at the federal level is wrong-sighted. That’s a responsibility best left to the states. Thankfully, as this report points out, many have already picked up that torch.
Heather L. Schwartz, Laura S. Hamilton, Brian M. Stecher, and Jennifer L. Steele, “Expanded Measures of School Performance” (Arlington, VA: RAND Corporation, 2011).
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