Friday, November 16, 2007

School Report Cards - A Primer

I understand that this what PS 231 in Brooklyn put out to the school community. Lisa

School Report Cards - A Primer November 2007

The school report cards have just been released, and all schools have received a letter grade from A-F. Here are some things you should know about the elementary school report cards and the grading system:

Basics on the Construction of the School Report Card:

* 85% of the report card grade is derived from the state ELA and math test scores: 55% from changes in the test scores from year to year (progress) and 30% from the actual scores (performance).
* 15% of the report card grade is derived from attendance (5%) and parent and teacher surveys (10%).
* Each category - progress, performance, attendance, parent surveys, and teacher surveys - is weighted so that two-thirds of each sub-score is derived from a comparison with 40 peer schools and one-third from a comparison with all city schools.
* A school's peer group is a collection of 40 schools that have a similar population. The way in which similar schools are determined is 40% based on the percentage of African-American and Latino students in a school; 40% based on the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch; 10% based on percentage of students who receive special education services; and 10% based on the percentage of students who are English Language Learners (ELLs).

Problems with the Construction of the School Report Card:

* The school report card relies too heavily on test scores.
* The DOE has a very restricted definition of progress so that a student who got one question wrong on their New York State ELA test in 4th grade and two wrong on their ELA test in 5th grade is not considered to have made progress, even though the number wrong falls within the standard error of measurement and the student is obviously succeeding at the 5th grade level.
* In elementary schools, the percentage of students in just two out of seven grades who are deemed to have made progress is the single most important factor in determining the school's grade. Third graders' scores only count as part of the 30% of the score that measures performance, and students who are not tested (pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders) count very minimally in the attendance score which accounts for 5% of the grade.
* The school report card does not take into account the many factors that make a great school, for example, whether a school has enrichments such as music, art, dance, chess and language classes; whether it encourages children to learn to work cooperatively; whether children are making academic progress based on measures other than test scores.
* The grades are based on a curve. The DOE predetermined that this year 15% of schools would score an A (though it actually boosted the percentage to 23%); 40% a B; 30% a C; 10% a D; and 5% an F. There is a very complex formula for determining the grade, and there are minute differences statistically between some schools with different grades.
* Although the DOE has spent a great deal of money on school Quality Reviews, where educators visit the schools and rate them, the results of the Quality Reviews are not factored into the report card grade.
* Because of their reliance on test scores in this report card, the DOE is considering instituting K-2 grades standardized testing, further compounding the problem of an overemphasis on testing and bringing it into grades where it has no place.

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