Lots of groups, particularly “school reformers,” are getting into the habit of giving schools “report cards.” I thought I’d bring together a handful of resources detailing why this is bad practice, and I hope that readers will contribute more:

Parents Relying on School Report Cards Can Be Confused is from Education Week.

The Grading Game is from The National Education Policy Center.

The Dangers of Grading Our Schools is from Reed Gillespie.

Why Rank Schools? is by David B. Cohen.

What you should know about Colorado School Grades is by Lisa Cook.

Priceless, Amazing & Disappointing: “GOP donor’s school grade changed”

Bennett-gate And The Politics Of Grading Schools is by Jeff Bryant.

“A-F” School Ranking Systems—Exacerbating Racial Divisions and Inequality is by Jan Resseger.

As Few as Three Test Responses Separate A from F Schools in Okla., Study Says is from Education Week.

LAUSD’s school ranking system is a bad idea is from School Data Nerd. It’s an important commentary on a new and bad plan by the Los Angeles schools to create a simplistic rating plan (you might also be interested in The Best Evidence For Why Giving Schools “Report Cards” Is Bad — Help Me Find More). Addendum: the author (Benjamin Max Feinberg) is taking the site off-line soon, and gave me permission to republish part of it below:

The main thesis of this site has been that you cannot boil school performance down to one number. Yes, some schools are good at supporting English Language Learners. Yes, others are terrible at teaching math. But when you try to boil it down to one number, you lose the power of the data.

The point of the data is not to be punitive, but to be revelatory. It is there to help guide progress. Instead, boiling it down to one number will have several silly consequences.

First, and I cannot stress this enough, single digit ratings of schools are how segregation happens.That’s why Zillow is so deeply connected with Great Schools ratings. When you combine the idea of neighborhood boundaries with the idea of a school rating, you create an economic redline. That’s why realtors advertise houses in Silver Lake as being in the “Ivanhoe School District” (yes, they call it a school district). They know that Houses within the schools boundaries become more valuable. That in turn is going to gentrify any neighborhood proclaimed to have a “5”, forcing out families that are poorer.

Second, the proposed rating system is supposed to be based 45% on growth. Great, finally we are valuing growth! Oh joy! Except that when you make 45% of a 1 through 5 rating system based on growth, you are going to have WILD swings in scores from year to year. One year a school might have strong growth and be a 4, the next year it may have paltry growth and be a 2.

Furthermore, there is no well accepted way to calculate growth. The state explicitly says you cannot calculate growth between in the same student in two consecutive years. Instead, they say the best thing is something called DF3, but that has its problems too.

Finally, we already have a sophisticated rating system that does not use single digits! The California School Dashboard is the rating system that the state created – and it is actually pretty good. Yes, it’s a lot of information, but it is way more actionable than a single digit. It breaks down performance by individual subgroups, so you can know if a school is equitable.

You want to build successful schools? Then take a growth mindset approach – we all have areas for growth. What kind of complacency are you developing when you give a school a ranking of 5? And what kind of hierarchical malaise are you heaping upon a school with a 1?

What Do Public School Rankings Really Mean? is from Yahoo.

LA Unified moves away from plan to assign schools a single rating is from Ed Source.

OPINION: Why school ratings can backfire is from The Hechinger Report.

Study: Common school ratings biased, often inaccurate is from Chalkbeat.

Accountability Systems Must Offer More Than School Grades is from Scott Marion.

D.C. Is Revising Its Public School Report Cards. But Proposed Changes Won’t Eliminate the Biased Score. is from The Washington City Paper.


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