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August 12, 2013

You need to sense a school's 'muscle, music'

Alan Borsuk:

What do you see when you see a good school? A few months ago, a teacher asked me that question. I gave a simple answer:

Muscle and music.

It's a more complex and important question than you might think. Any parent wants a good school for her or his child, but few have a good handle on what that involves. Experts and advocates have heated debates about how to define school quality -- and whether it can be done at all.

Increasing emphasis is being put on judging schools, in the name of accountability and better quality. But getting constructive results from such work is, best as I can tell, not paying much reward nationwide.

Wisconsin, for example, overhauled its report cards for schools in 2012 to add lots more data and rate schools by whether they meet, beat or fail to fulfill "expectations." The resulting reports are a step forward in that they give a lot more information than used to be readily available. But the system is a work in progress. It will be several years before there is a decent reading on whether these report cards are helping in any way.

Some states have gone to giving schools grades, A through F, with consequences good or bad for the schools. That idea is, at best, under a cloud, following a news report a few days ago that the then-education chief of Indiana, Tony Bennett, had the grading system there changed in 2012 so that a specific charter school, led by a major Republican donor, would get an "A" instead of a "C." In short order, Bennett resigned from his new job as education chief of Florida, even as he said he did nothing wrong.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at August 12, 2013 12:03 AM
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