Grading School Grades

Editorial | The New York Post
11/06/07

When we predicted griping yesterday over Chancellor Joel Klein’s latest school-accountability reform — school report cards — we assumed many folks would be surprised (outraged?) by the grades. In that regard, the reports yesterday did not disappoint.

Parents — and, even more so, teachers and administrators — who’ve long regarded their schools as excellent, or close to it, may have been truly shocked to receive C’s, D’s or even F’s.

On the other hand, some grades — say, a B rather than a D — may have come as pleasant surprises for some schools.

All of which has led critics to dismiss the entire program as a data-driven, bureaucratic Rube Goldberg hokum.

It’s not.

Well, maybe a little Rube Goldberg.

It is complicated, and does have some way to go before it can be fully relied on as an accurate measure of the performance of any given school.

The grades, for starters, are based on numerous factors — year-to-year “progress,” overall “performance,” results at similar schools, survey findings, attendance rates and other indicators.

How can anyone possibly control for so many simultaneously moving parts?

Moreover, key data come from a new computer program: the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System. Who knows what gets fed into that black box, or how it spits out results?

And since the grading system is new, it uses only information compiled from this year and last. Thus, a school that did well, say, five years in a row, but fell back a bit this year, would be penalized — because the earlier years aren’t factored in.

(In the future, data from more years will be used.)

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