The DoE is upgrading — or at least changing — some aspects of its Progress Reports, the school wide accountability reports that assess school progress and performance based primarily on test scores, as well as credit accumulation and graduation rates in the high schools. For the first time, the special challenges brought to schools by students in self-contained classes will be part of the equation. I have been arguing long and hard on this blog that the cards inadequately addressed this challenge, and that that inadequacy was a factor in the low scores of closing schools (see here, here, and here, for example).
The relevant high school changes:
- The formula for calculating the high school peer index will now include an adjustment for self-contained students (beyond the existing adjustment for special education students). Specifically, a high school’s peer index will equal the average 8th grade proficiency minus two times the percentage of special education students minus two times the percentage of self-contained students minus the percentage of over-age (on entry) students.
- The weighted diploma rate for the following sub-groups (3 points each): special education students (note: special education students will receive the differentiated graduation weight, based on their program recommendation, described in change #1 above).
- The graduation weights will be as follows for the following special education students: SETSS — double; CTT — triple; self-contained — quadruple.
Only time will tell us whether these changes will make the Progress Reports a fairer and more transparent evaluation of the schools, but the fact that the DoE has made these changes indicates that the problem we have been talking about here on Edwize existed.
Now let’s hope that going forward the nuances of student demographics become more central to the debate about school quality on the national level. No school can be measured fairly on its progress and achievement if the measurement does not begin with an accurate assessment of the challenges. It is quite possible that no statistical formula can capture those nuances, but surely we have to do a better job. For starters, disaggregated special education, parental level of education, the rate of 504’s, the difference between free and reduced lunch, budgets — all of these should probably be part of the equation. Without that we cannot hope to discover which schools actually have promising programs for our most challenging students. Education departments across the country should be supporting and studying such programs, rather than taking a blunt axe to schools, the staffs that teach there, and the students and community they serve.