Helping More of Our Schools Make the Grade
This year many public schools have geared up for parent-teacher conferences. This year, for the first time, they’ll be able to see the school’s grade too.
Last week, we released the results of the largest, most comprehensive evaluation of schools ever undertaken by any city. More than 1,200 schools were given a letter grade of “A” through “F.” Those grades are based on several factors, such as the school’s learning environment—as described by parents, teachers, and students on the survey we conducted last spring, student performance in reading and math, and most importantly, student progress—how the school is helping its students improve from one year to the next.
In some cases, these progress reports have challenged our perceptions about individual schools. They have shown us whether schools are moving the lowest-performing students forward, and they have allowed us to see, for the first time, how each school matches up to schools with similar student bodies. Parents in particular deserve to have this information at their fingertips. Not only will it encourage them to get more involved in their child’s education, it will also help inform such decisions as which middle and high schools their sons and daughters should apply to.
Having this information will also help all of us in City government to keep our schools moving in the right direction. Now that we know where our schools’ strengths and weaknesses lie, we will set a new standard for each school to meet over the next year. And, we will hold our educators responsible for results. The progress reports will also help schools at all levels learn from each other. For example, we’ll ask top schools to be demonstration sites for other schools.
Yearly rankings keep our nation’s best colleges on their toes, and these progress reports will do the same for our city’s highest-performing elementary, middle, and high schools. At the other end of the spectrum, these evaluations provide the schools that received the lowest grades with a real opportunity to turn themselves around. The Chancellor has already met with the principals of some of these schools to support them in creating an “Action Plan,” which they must follow as they work to help students improve. If these schools can’t meet the new standards, they could face leadership changes, or even closure.
I know that not every parent will be happy with the grade their son’s or daughter’s school receives, but that’s exactly the point: to resist complacency and to challenge our schools to do better this year and every year going forward. And I know that some have questioned the grading formula. We’ll take those concerns into account, but the most important thing is that parents now know more about their children’s schools than ever before.
We’ve made some tremendous gains over the last five years: graduation rates are at a 25-year high, the achievement gap is narrowing, and more students across the city are succeeding. But we still have a long way to go before we can say that all of our students are getting the education they deserve. By rigorously tracking school progress and performance, and by making that information available to the public so they can hold us accountable for results, we can help more of our schools—and more of our students—make the grade.#