Educational statistics expert Joseph Hawkins, one of my guides to the mysteries of test assessment, is impatient with the way the Montgomery County Public School system, as he puts it, “is always telling the world how better it is than everyone else.” He finds flaws in its latest celebration of college success by county graduates, particularly minorities.
As a senior study director with the Rockville-based research firm Westat, Hawkins’ critique has regional and national importance because it deals with the National Student Clearinghouse. This little-known information source may become the way school raters like me decide which school families and taxpayers are getting their money’s worth and which aren’t.
The clearinghouse has a database of more than 93 million students in more than 3,300 colleges and universities. It originally specialized in verifying student enrollment for loan companies. Now it tells high schools how their alums are doing.
Yeah, sure, says Hawkins, but “data from the Clearinghouse is not completely accurate, especially if social security numbers for students are not obtained.” Also, he says, some of the numbers Montgomery County brags about don’t look so good when compared to others.