Wednesday, December 05, 2018

I give the new TN education report card a grade of "D+."

The Tennessee Department of Education has revealed a new online education report card this week and I would give it a "D" or maybe be generous and give it a "D+."

I would like to be able to see a list a Davidson Counties schools and be able to filter then from worst to best and be able to post a list of the ten worse and ten best. I would like to be able to compare schools across the county and the state. I just can't do that with this new system.  I can look up information for a specific school but it is very difficult to compare one school to another.

Another fault with this new state report card is that one cannot get a composite score for a school. Instead of one score, the school is rated in six categories:

  • Academic achievement which measures whether students are performing on grade level on TNready
  • Student Academic growth which measures if from year to year students are improving
  • Chronically out of school which measures the level of truancy
  • Progress on English language proficiency
  • Ready to graduate which is the percentage of students who score at least a 21 on the ACT test
  • Graduation rates.
It would be nice if the various factors were combined into one score, although I am sure there would be disagreement about the weight given to the various components. Given that there is not a composite score, the information would still be more useful if it was more user friendly.  The data has to be available to filter and rank or the department could not provide what information they do provide.  Why will they not make that data readily available?

The gradng scale is 0 to 4 with use of decimals.  "O" is the worst and 4 is the best. Here is a comparison of four high schools in Nashville with information gleamed from the new report card:

The quality of public schools varies greatly in Davidson County. Some of our schools are absolutely terrible and a few are excellent. Even within a school that is ranked bad there may still be an opportunity for a student to get a good education if he is motivated. Some schools that do not rank that high still have advanced placement courses and programs like International Baccalaureate. We all know the role of peer pressure and environment is student success however.  Students in good schools are generally better students.

Luckily, I do not have school age children.  If I did, I would sacrifice to put them in a private school, leave Davidson County for a county with better schools, or proactively aggressively push to get them in a good school.  No longer does one have to move to a neighborhood with good schools to get your child in a good school or lie about your address. For parents who are willing to work at it, you can get your child in a better school.  You may have to provide the transportation to get them to a school other than their district school, but that seems a small price to pay for a better education. The Metro School Choice Festival was last month, but if I were a parent with few other option for my child's education and had missed the event I would not let that stop me from exercising school choice.

I am disappointed that the new report card is not more user friendly, still it is better than what we have had before and can provide helpful information about schools in Tennessee.

To read the Tennessee Education Department's press release on the new report card follow this link.

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