At the very least, a good step toward sanity, and a step away from amateurism…..

“New York City is overhauling its system for evaluating schools, de-emphasizing test scores in favor of measures like the strength of the curriculum and the school environment, and doing away with an overall A-through-F grade for each school, the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, said on Tuesday…NY Times 10/1/14”……

I have no knowledge as to where this will end up; but it is a very good start. This is already evidence that having a “real” professional educator in the chief leadership position is critical; if we will have any hope of providing a quality education for the majority of the city’s children. As mis and under informed “reformers” nationally resorted to silly, and most important unhelpful designation of letter grades as a way to evaluate and define schools; these same schools fell into further academic dysfunction and disrepair; and racial achievement gaps continued to expand. It was almost impossible to explain to them (and to some intellectually lazy members of the news media who championed this misinformed reform) of the total non-useful data of comparing schools by testing cohorts a year apart. Scores could go up, or down because of actions taken by the school; or due to no action taken by a school. A “strong cohort” of 10th graders doing well on a standardized exam; could be followed by a “weak cohort” taking a different exam (with the same title), and with different “cut scores”*. These test results don’t tell us what we really need to know about a school; and whether or not it is a “self-learning”, and “self- improving” institution. It does not help us to find out if a school is engaged in that critical and essential practice of “competing against itself”. A deeper and more thorough evaluation would stop “high performing” letter grade schools from resting on, and receiving “false positives” year after year; only because the evaluation tool is wrong, and inauthentic. Developing an authentic evaluation tool takes work, on site observations, professional knowledge and time. Schools that appear to be “high performing” (under the previous mayor’s system) could in fact be badly underperforming with a more accurate and authentic tool. All schools will need to meet some similar standards; but individual schools will also require a unique set of metrics to truly evaluate their performance. This takes supervisory work, but at the end parents, policy makers and taxpayers would truly know if a school was performing well, or not

*Without going deep into the woods of psychometrics (the formal study, theory & technique of measurement, assessment, testing). The “cut score” basically is that score a student must reach to be designated: Basic, Proficient or Advance. This means that not only are the students (subjects) different from year to year; the exam (tool of measurement) is different from year to year. The exam could also be “changed” even after the students have taken it. If for example a question is poorly, or incorrectly worded, and a large number of students get it wrong; the question’s “value” can be downgraded and therefore the “cut scores” (and student scores) have been changed dramatically; as huge numbers of students are just below an achievement designation.