Education Reform

Anthony Cody on California’s New Model of Evaluating Schools

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Anthony Cody reports here on California’s new school evaluation rubric, using multiple measures.

He writes:

The new system being proposed for California schools was designed by technicians at West Ed, and it creates a matrix of color-coded squares that indicate both the absolute status and the direction of change for ten different categories of data. Thus we get a system with ten categories of information, and seventeen color coded boxes. The categories are:

ELA assessment (K-8) (scores on Common Core aligned SBAC tests)

Math assessment (K-8) (scores on Common Core aligned SBAC tests)

English learner proficiency (scores on CELDT tests)

Graduation rate (9-12)

Chronic absenteeism (K-8)

Suspension Rate & Local Climate Survey

College & Career Readiness (scores on 11th grade Common Core aligned SBAC tests, plus other indicators)

Basics (Teachers, Instructional Materials, Facilities)

Implementation of Academic Standards

Parent Engagement

Cody adds:

In thinking about this proposal, it is important to recall what it is going to replace, which was a single number that was assigned to each school, derived entirely from standardized test scores. We have long argued that education is far more complex, and here we have a system that attempts to grapple with some of that complexity. There are indicators for local climate – derived in part from surveys which measure student engagement – this should be a major focus for every school.

The category “Basics” is the one thing on the list that might be considered an input. How well resourced is the school? What is the level of education and experience of the faculty? These are critically important variables. If the new funding formula is effective at redirecting resources towards schools with the highest needs, we should see improvements in some aspects of this.

I wonder what we might want to include that is not here. What about an indicator of school stability? What is the level of staff and administrator turnover from year to year? Student success correlates positively with stability, so this would be a useful indicator.

I want to back up a bit though, and reflect about what was so problematic about the prior system we had in place. First of all it was only based on test scores, and performance on those scores was largely determined by the income and parental education level of the students that attended the school. Thus the API score was more an indicator of affluence than of school quality. In this proposed system, this will remain true for all the indicators associated with test scores.

He suggests that the new measures are not immune from Campbell’s Law, which holds:

The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

In other words, educators will be likely to game the system if their rating depends on the system.

Cody asks, do these measures promote the conditions that encourage student growth and love of learning?

I ask, why are we obsessed with measuring schools and giving them grades, whether one number, one letter, or many numbers and letters?

I know of no evidence that these rating systems improve schools, unless they are self-evaluation tools that help teachers and administrators review their strengths and weaknesses. But why rate and rank schools, other than to promote school choice?

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