On Monday the Department of Education released new School Quality Reports for every city school, fulfilling its promiseto abandon the labeling of each school with a single letter grade. For parents who appreciated this simple shorthand when seeking out the best school for their children, this new system may appear daunting. But for anyone who ever wondered how those grades were calculated or why some fluctuated wildly when all appeared stable on the ground, the new system will be a breath of fresh air.
The new School Quality Reports are comprised of two separate documents, both intended to make the existing school data more transparent to parents and educators alike. The School Quality Snapshot is a short and straightforward tool intended for parents. Much like InsideStats on Insideschools' profile pages, it seeks to present the most relevant information for parents in a way that is easy to read and understand. On this document, you won't see any statistical analyses or weighted comparisons, only the raw test scores, graduation rates and school survey results that matter to parents most.
Where the old Progress Reports crowded general descriptive and demographic information about each school in less than a quarter of the first page, the new Snapshots open with almost an entire page dedicated to an easy-to-read menu of important information such as SAT scores, student and teacher attendance rates, length of principal experience at that school and whether the school shares space with other schools. For middle and high schools, the "School Overview" allows each school to introduce itself in its own words, which can be helpful to prospective students looking for a particular focus or vibe. Half of the next page is dedicated to key results from the Quality Review, which are based on two-day school visits by education experts. Similar to dropping the overall letter grade of the old system, the new Snapshots also drop the one-word "rating" from the Quality Review in exchange for answers to questions that parents understand and care about, such as "How interesting and challenging is the curriculum?"
The second component of the new system, the School Quality Guide , is essentially the same as the old Progress Report. The first few pages include some helpful new information, such as a table of enrollment and demographic changes over the last three years (these numbers alone can say volumes). There are detailed excerpts from the Quality Reviews, but the language of these is too dry and generic to be useful. Pages four through nine squeeze in almost all the same data points and same mathematical comparisons as the old Progress Reports with fewer visual aids to help guide you through it. A key difference, though, is that those comparisons are not being used to rank schools against each other, only to set targets for their improvement over the next school year.
According to the DOE's announcementlast month, this version of the Quality Guide is a temporary placeholder while they adapt the entire system to a new school evaluation framework over the coming years.
What would you like to see them include or drop in the next version?
Do the Snapshots paint a clearer picture of what is happening in your child's school than the old Progress Reports, or do you miss the old A-F grading system? Please let us know what you think!