Monday, August 12, 2013

My private heresy: I don't care about the state "scorecard"

Any day now my state (Michigan) will release its latest "school accountability" report. This year's version is called the "scorecard." Calling it a "scorecard" suggests that the state has the capacity to identify school winners and losers. After all, the only reason you keep score is to see who wins.

When the state reveals this year's scorecard, I will, as Superintendent of Schools, be asked how I interpret the results.

My answer, "I don't care."

That is probably not entirely true, but let me explain.

I don't care what the state "scorecard" reveals because the results cannot tell me anything that I do not already know.

We have great schools in my district. Students learn. Teachers and principals care.

We have National Merit Semi-Finalists and Finalists every year. We have Advanced Placement Scholars and International Baccalaureate graduates. We have Siemens Award winners.

We have state Quiz Bowl champions and state debate champions. We have students who do well on science fair projects and math league competitions.

We have an award winning theater troupe. Our bands and choirs earn the highest marks at solo and ensemble festivals.

Our athletic teams are competitive and, at times, the best in the state. We have coaches who challenge students to improve but more importantly care about each student.  

On the objective measures that the state seems to care inordinately about we do well. Results from the MEAP and the MME rank us among the highest performing districts in the state.

On the NWEA, which our district uses to measure growth and achievement, students perform remarkably well. They perform at a high level and they consistently hit their growth targets.

We have one of the highest graduation rates in the state. Our student attendance rate is exceptionally high.

We have wonderful diversity in our district. We have students from a wide range of backgrounds and countries. This diversity provides an opportunity for our students to experience the world that they will live and work in and gain experiences that will give them confidence as they go off to college and enter the world of work.

We have achievement gaps. Some of these gaps are quite large. We have put in place a variety of supports to address these gaps. We have created smaller classes for students who struggle in math and reading. We have math and literacy coaches. We have reading support teachers. We have created an Academic Advisory at the high school and an Academic 20 at the middle school to connect students in smaller groups with a teacher who cares and who can help focus them academically.

We have teachers who run a Math Boot Camp and who come in early and stay late to tutor. We have teachers who call parents and encourage students every day.

I know our schools. They are wonderful, rich, vibrant, and exciting places to learn. Our district goals challenge us to help each student make a year's growth in a year's time and perform at a high level. We accept that challenge and together we are working hard to ensure that each student is challenged to reach their potential.

We are creating a robust, internal accountability system. This will allow us to us to focus attention not only on the state measurements but also our own internal assessments to give parents a clearer and more accurate picture of their son's and daughter's achievement.

So do I care about the state "scorecard?" Not really. Because I know my schools. I know the teachers and the principals. I know that we are making progress and that a state "scorecard" cannot truly capture the good things that happen in my schools every day.

The only reason I care about the "scorecard" is that I have to answer questions about what the "scorecard" means. So when the state "scorecard" is finally revealed, I will let my community know that I believe in our schools. I believe that we are great and getting better.

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