Thinking About School Quality

Previous work around school quality has typically identified schools that are “beating the odds.”  Such an approach finds “outlier schools” by analyzing student outcomes, and studies these schools to determine what they appear to be doing well. However, in our early thinking about improving school quality, we began reframing quality around adult behaviors and inputs and the context they build in a school – factors we can actually manipulate.

Equitable Accountability Reporting

The Maryland Report Card was developed to evaluate school performance across multiple metrics, including assessment performance, student growth, school climate, and implementation of a well-rounded curriculum. Schools across the state have been ranked according to how many points they earned by meeting performance expectations on these indicators, and each school received a summative “star” rating that ranged between one and five stars. On the ground, though, schools are complex entities and any measurement of overall school performance can be attributed to multiple inputs: quality of teachers, socio-economic background of students, involvement of parents in the school community, resources of the governing school district, and so on. We argue that accountability metrics with no consideration of the students served may largely end up representing the socio-economic level of students’ families, rather than measuring the quality of each school. In contrast, we share a new model for consideration. Please read more here. Click here to see all Maryland Schools, and summary counts for elementary, middle and high schools.

Quality of Adults

A brief that examines this redefinition of quality of adults. This strategy resonates with us because of problems we perceive with approaches that place the most weight on student outcomes, which are biased by family poverty and factors outside of schools’ control. Next, we asked “If we have metrics on adults, can we predict the student outcomes used in previous accountability metrics?”  Eventually this reframing could provide new nomenclature about quality and serve as a model to guide improvement.  Read more here.

Quality and Closing Schools

This brief is authored by our partners at the Johns Hopkins School of Education Institute for Education Policy on closing schools — a challenge facing many districts that involves numerous stakeholders, and which
quickly becomes very political since each has a different agenda. While the need to close schools is often clear, how to make the decision and navigate the process is not. This policy brief shares two urban case studies: Chicago Public Schools and New York City Department of Education. Both districts closed dozens of schools between 2000 and 2014, and each used different methods and achieved different outcomes. Read more here. This is a companion piece to IEP’s policy brief.

Quality in Schools Serving Similar Students

This is a brief written by our partners at Baltimore City Schools and explores a new methodology to make comparisons more useful for schools. They compared schools that are similar by student characteristics (i.e., the percent economically disadvantaged, and students receiving services for disabilities and learning English). There are many other factors associated with the outcomes of assessment performance, graduation, or college readiness. Given the large number of characteristics that can be measured about schools and students, this research demonstrates how there are multiple, valid ways to assess school quality, and each paints a different picture. This brief presents Baltimore City’s School Performance Measure (SPM), which provides a snapshot of a school’s year-long performance that serves as one component in teacher and principal evaluations, and which school practitioners have found useful. Read more about their work here.

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