Monday, December 17, 2007

Voices in opposition to the school grading system grow louder

Diane Ravitch has an oped in today's NY Sun about the new school grades:

Is the grading system accurate and reliable? Did the grading system identify the worst schools? Is the closure of the lowest-performing schools likely to improve public education? Could the Department have taken other actions that might have been more effective than closing schools?

The answers to all of these questions, she suggests, is no. Diane also provides an important critique of the whole notion that simply closing schools is the best way to make significant progress:

Nor is it enough to turn out the lights. Schools are not a franchise operation. They are deeply embedded community institutions. They should be improved with additional resources, smaller classes, and additional training for educators. The starting point in reforming schools is to have a valid evaluation system that correctly identifies the schools that need extra help. It may not be easy to transform the schools that are in trouble, but if we want a good public education system, there really is no alternative.

Indeed, this is an essential element
of the school reform process for which Tweed no longer feels accountable -- their responsibility to provide the support and resources schools need to improve.

See the show on PBS about the NYC school grading controversy, including parents and principals at some of the schools that got low marks, and one that got high marks, talking about the meaning and impact of these grades. The show also includes an interview with the Chancellor, in which he attempts to explains the "F" that PS 35, the Staten Island neighborhood school received, despite having 98% of students at grade level in math, by comparing it unfavorably to Anderson School – a highly selective gifted and talented school.

The interviewer, Rafael Pi Roman points out that William Sanders, the father of value-added accountability systems, told him that the sort of one year’s test score gains that the NYC grades are based upon are not meaningful. Klein responds that nevertheless, the school grade is a positive motivational factor in getting schools to work harder on improving test scores.

You can also listen to audio clips from the City Council hearings on the school grades from December 10, now posted on You Tube:

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum , who says out that closing schools unilaterally, as the Chancellor has done, without first consulting Community Education Councils is potentially illegal.

City Council Education Chair Robert Jackson (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), who aggressively questions James Liebman on many issues, including whether the DOE reached out to parents sufficiently.

Council Member Lew Fidler of Brooklyn, who flunks the school grades for their lack of transparency. (Part 1 and Part 2.)

And Council Member John Liu , who is masterful in showing that these grades are derived primarily from the results of only two tests -- though Liebman keeps trying to argue that these are really "multiple assessments" given out over "multiple days." (Part 1 and Part 2.)

Finally, watch the Channel 2 news segment featuring the hearings and showing Liebman fleeing from parents, now also posted on YouTube.

UPDATE: see also this article in City Limits:

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