Friday, April 14, 2006

NYC - Price to Pay

A recent NY Times article describes a mouthful of reform with principals at the center. Joel Klein, in an effort to inject more beef into New York City's accountability model, has a plan for grading schools and using those grades to reward or punish school principals. The scoring will be consistent with America's most popular grading scale--our A through F addiction.

School grades will be determined mostly by standardized tests raising nagging albeit legitimate concerns over test efficacy and legitimacy when it comes to measuring progress. Rounding out the formula will be niceties like ratios applied to reward or chasten individual schools for year-to-year performance gains or loses; elementary attendance and safety; and high school Regents, graduation rates, and college entrance exams. In addition to the grades, schools will receive "quality reviews," based on factors like principals' leadership skills, parent involvement, and data management to track student progress. I wonder what people will remember? A big fat D or the details of a "quality review"?

Identifying principals of poorly performing schools is most of stated purpose here, but surely there is more planned and fallout effects are inevitable. For instance, the plan is haplessly being touted to give parents critical information about their schools--a measure that will provide no relief, only knowledge of what could otherwise be if parents could pick up their roots and move. Without any choice program built into this plan the rankings seem like ammunition for the weary. Perhaps, and cruelly, Klein will harness this anger to build the case for more choice in the NYC school system. Perhaps not.

It should get interesting.


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