Say goodbye to the controversial school grading system developed under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Starting this school year, parents will no longer be able to judge schools by their A to F rankings, which were designed to be a simple way to see whether their child's school was succeeding or failing.
Instead, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña wants parents to look beyond test scores to see what is actually happening inside their children's classrooms and promises the Department of Education will do the same. "Schools are not restaurants," quipped Fariña, "they have unique qualities that need to be captured in different ways."
Fariña announced the new plan for evaluating schools yesterday at PS 503/PS 506 in Sunset Park. She said that before the end of the calendar year, new School Quality Snapshots will be released for all schools and available online for parents to read. They will highlight key results from several different data sources the DOE already collects, including the annual school survey and the Quality Review conducted by experts who visit the school. While test scores will still be included, they will not be the sole focus, nor will they be used to penalize a school that does poorly.
Parents who are interested in diving deeper can also access the new School Quality Guides, which will show 16–18 pages of detailed information from the same data sources. Here, the administration will track progress over the last several years and set targets for schools based on what similar schools have been able to accomplish. The purpose of making all of this information available, says Deputy Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Phil Weinberg, is "for the entire community to engage in a dialogue about their school" and create a road map of support to help it improve.
Initiating that kind of dialogue has long been our goal here at Insideschools. We understand that parents need to know more than last year's test scores to decide which school is a good fit for their children. And we applaud the chancellor for doing away with the misleading letter grades tied punitively to test scores. But from what we heard at yesterday's announcement we know that this is still a work in progress.
The new School Quality Snapshots and School Quality Guides will contain much more information about what schools are doing well and how they need to improve. But that will take time for parents and students to interpret, which may only add stress in an application process that is already overwhelming as it is.