Wednesday, December 19, 2007

4 Good Ones on NYC Report Cards

Four useful articles on report cards:

1) Diane Ravitch's NY Sun op-ed from earlier this week.
2) Leonie Haimson's post at NYC Parents, which provides links to youtube footage from the City Council hearings.
3) Norm Fruchter's Ed Week commentary.
4) Sam Freedman's NYT column.

My prior posts on report cards are archived here. Basically, here's what they say: even if your only concern is statistical validity, the NYC report cards are a mess. The system doesn't take into account measurement error, creates unreasonable peer groups, and pays no attention to regression to the mean (the idea that very high or low data points will move toward the mean the next time they are measured - i.e. Staten Island's PS 35, discussed in Randi Weingarten's commentary). And that's just a small sampling of the design problems.

What the report card debate reveals, I think, is that parents and citizens don't view school quality as a unidimensional construct. Nor do all parents want the same things from their schools; or, more accurately, they may want the same things, but put different weights on academic growth, climate, etc. Some value overall performance more than growth. Others care more about the climate and social environment than academics. Still others prioritize safety. In short, assigning one grade conflicts with our competing intuitions about how to value different dimensions of schooling.

If a central goal of the report card system is to provide information to parents, the Dept of Ed should consider assigning multiple grades. First, though, the basic design of the system needs some serious work.

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