Nine Yale undergraduate students at the Education Center of the Roosevelt Institute are now digging into New York, New Jersey, and Washington DC’s systems for rating school quality to see if there might be a better way to decide which schools get sanctioned and rewarded for their performance. Teaming up with research staff from IRRE, these students will be applying IRRE’s Education Quality Information System (EQIS) to publicly available data that are used to assess how well (or badly) schools are performing. In all fifty states and DC, ratings like these are used to decide what, if anything, the state should do to intervene in these schools and school districts.
EQIS embodies several important principles for judging school quality that many states’ systems do not.
First, absolute, rather than relative, quality should be determined and these absolute standards should not be “watered down” based on demographic considerations. We need to know how good a school is rather than whether its better or worse than similar schools.
Second, progress toward quality standards should be used to identify promising practices, not to rate the quality of education students are receiving in that school.
Third, a school’s quality should be judged separately from the levels of challenge the school faces to improve quality. Level of challenge is defined by the concentration of students with learning challenges and the degree of control that school exerts over recruitment and retention of students and staff.
Fourth, struggling schools with high demands on their human and financial resources and little control over those resources should not face strong sanctions including closure until the state and districts have shown success with other schools facing similar challenges.
The Roosevelt Institute team will complete their analyses of each state’s policies and data over the next few months with support from the IRRE team. They will prepare a report and presentation aimed toward state level policy makers in each of their states and Washington, DC. In the report, they will present:
- The alignment (or lack thereof) between the state’s quality rating system and the four EQIS principles;
- The results of applying those principles to publicly available state data used in the current quality rating system; and
- The implications of differences between the two sets of results for how states support and sanction schools who are considered low performing.
IRRE is pleased to have been selected by the Roosevelt Institute team for this project and has already benefitted from working with these talented and committed students. Stay tuned for their reports.