What's Your Story?
When it comes to public schools, beauty has too often been in the report card of the beholder.
Recent years have witnessed a surge in efforts to grade the nation's public schools. Groups such as Editorial Projects in Education (publishers of Education Week), the Fordham Foundation, and the U.S. Chamber of Congress issue separate and at times conflicting report cards grading states on the quality of their K-12 education systems. States maintain their own systems for grading individual districts and schools--and their grades often contradict federal designations of schools' Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind.
To add to the confusion, dueling lists of America's top high schools published by Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report cause consternation among parents whose children's schools top one list but are nowhere to be seen on the other. And, most recently, New York City's highly-publicized school grading initiative assigns failing grades to some schools that receive high marks from state and federal accountability systems, not to mention from their communities.
Leaving aside the relative merits of these different grading régimes--and some do have real merit--the resulting cacophony threatens the very transparency such grading systems aim to achieve. If the same school is either outstanding or lousy depending on whom you ask, parents and other community members are bound to stop asking altogether.
It is therefore all the more important for districts and schools themselves to share information about their achievements--and their challenges--directly with their communities. Schools can help cut through the confusion by candidly describing their performance in ways that reflect their communities' explicit hopes and aspirations for their children.
Just take a look at the achievements of Mobile County Public Schools. Working with the Mobile Area Public Education Foundation, the district worked intensively with hundreds of parents and community members to learn about the community's overall goals, establish accompanying goals for the schools, and craft specific and actionable strategies for meeting those goals. The district also created formal reporting systems to keep its community apprised of progress towards those goals. Not only did its approach help the county secure its first school bond in four decades, it led to substantial and sustained increases in student performance. You can read more about Monilr'd story here.
For more information about the various report cards grading different aspects of the public schools, see NSBA's Center for Public Education.
Photo courtesy of Craven County Schools
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- Best Selling Author Dan Ariely
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The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
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