Grading public schools differently

Every year, we hear disheartening news about Hawaii’s public schools. The 2010 Hawaii State Assessment reports that 67% of students are proficient in reading and 49% of students are proficient in math. Happily (or sadly), that’s an improvement over last year.

It’s hard for parents to decide which public school is right for their children.Right now, we have two ways to impartially grade the performance of our public schools: test scores and satisfaction surveys.

The Hawaii state Assessment reports are based only on standardized reading and math tests for more than 93,910 students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 10.

Honolulu Magazine’s annual “Grading the Public Schools” takes the grading system one step further, by including satisfaction scores from teacher, parent, and student surveys. The surveys ask questions such as “I am satisfied with the overall quality of this school,” “I am satisfied with the variety of courses and programs offered at my child’s school,” and “Overall, this is a good public school.”

The standardized scores and satisfaction surveys are a great start. But let’s also grade schools in different ways.

To measure school performance:
* Number of courses offered
* Number of students per class
* Number of extra-curricular activities and clubs
* Percent of students with parents who attended the school

To measure teacher commitment:
* Percent of teachers with degrees in the subjects they teach
* Percent of teachers with children in public schools

To measure student achievement:
* Percent of students with at least 95% attendance
* Percent of students that engage in extra-curricular activities and clubs
* Percent of students accepted to college

To measure parent involvement:
* Percent of parents who attend parent-teacher conferences
* Percent of parents involved in the school’s Parent-Teacher Association

This updated “report card” shouldn’t cost anything. The Department of Education already has most of this information; it just needs to be collected, or a few questions added to the satisfaction surveys.

Standardized test scores aren’t the only (or best) measure of a school. What are other ways can we look beyond test scores to evaluate our schools?

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One Comment on “Grading public schools differently”

  1. Great ideas. We were not test-crazed when I was in school, and I think I turned out pretty damn good. I have my parents and good teachers to thank for it.

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