Published Online: February 14, 2001
Published in Print: February 14, 2001, as Testing



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School Ratings:

For More Information

An executive summary of the the report "Promoting Good Schools Through Wise Spending and School Rankings," is available. The full report is available from the Beacon Hill Institute by calling 617-573-8750 for a copy.
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A university think tank is cautioning that Massachusetts' system for rating its schools could "create more frustration than improvement" because it does not take into account factors that heavily influence achievement, but over which schools have little control, such as students' poverty levels.

The report, "Promoting Good Schools Through Wise Spending," uses a "value added" model that examines a district's performance after socioeconomic status and other factors are weighed. Under that model, some districts that fared poorly on the state's rankings were shown to be doing a far better job educating their students than anticipated, given their circumstances.

Without such an approach, the report warns, "schools with low ratings but good administrators and teachers will be falsely perceived as doing a poor job of teaching their students."

The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston also found that just spending more did not improve student learning, but that spending money to reduce class sizes in historically low-performing districts did make a difference.


For More Information

The policy statement "High-Stakes Testing in PreK-12 Education," is available from AERA, the Education and Research Network.

The American Educational Research Association has issued an "open letter" to states that raises "serious concerns" about the ways in which tests are being used to make important educational decisions about students.

Mailed last month to governors and other state policymakers, the letter warns against basing such decisions as student graduation or promotion to the next grade "on a single test" rather than on multiple measures of student performance. It also says students "must have had the opportunity to learn what is tested beforehand, and there must be meaningful remediation for those students who fail such high-stakes tests."

The group has identified 12 conditions, based on research, that it describes as essential to sound and appropriate test use. It is urging policymakers to use the criteria to help evaluate their current and proposed testing policies and programs.

While those criteria were already spelled out in a policy statement adopted by the AERA last year, researchers hope the open letter reaches a broader audience, said Gerald Sroufe, the group's director of government relations. "The message is still at least as vital, and perhaps more vital, in the current political climate," he said.

—Lynn Olson

Vol. 20, Issue 22, Page 5

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