Accountability

Advocate for Poor Communities Urges Detailed Data on Report Cards

By David J. Hoff — April 18, 2001 3 min read

State report cards connoting school success are often based solely on student test scores, giving parents an incomplete snapshot of a school’s quality, argues a report from a group that advocates political action in low-income communities.

Only 10 states regularly offer data other than assessment results, according to the survey by the Center for Community Change, a nonprofit organization with offices in Washington and San Francisco. Thirteen states don’t issue report cards at all, the group reports in “Individual School Report Cards: Empowering Parents and Communities To Hold Schools Accountable,” released last week.

States also should incorporate attendance rates, graduation rates, teacher qualifications, and class-size figures so parents can get a full understanding of what’s happening at the school, the study says.

For More Information

The report is available for $8 from the center at 1000 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20007; (202) 342- 0567

“People have a right to this information,” said Leigh Dingerson, a policy specialist for the center who wrote the report. “It has a very important role in holding their children’s school accountable to a level of performance.”

The center calls on Congress to require states to expand the content of report cards as a condition for receiving money from the $8.6 billion Title I program serving disadvantaged students. Title I law currently compels states to publish test scores on schools participating in the program and to break out scores by race and ethnicity. The 13 states that are not complying are on schedule to do so in the next year, the report says.

But states ought to be doing more than just giving test scores, Ms. Dingerson said. “It’s absolutely relevant for the federal government to say, ‘If you want federal funds, you have to provide a greater level of information to your consumers,’” she said.

Some Concessions

The House bill to reauthorize Title I and other federal K-12 programs includes two items that the Center for Community Change wants in report cards. Along with compelling states to report a breakdown of every school’s test scores, the bill would require that they publish teachers’ certification status for every school and the four-year graduation rate of high schools.

The center also wants states to report schools’ expulsion and suspension rates, average class sizes in every grade, and greater detail about teacher qualifications.

The Senate’s companion bill would continue to require states to publish schools’ test scores, but would give states leeway to decide what other information to include. Ms. Dingerson said she was optimistic that the Senate would expand its report-card requirements when it starts debate on the bill, expected later this month.

Data Available

But a House Democratic aide involved in negotiations over the House bill said it was unlikely that chamber would expand what’s in the report cards. Republicans are unlikely to increase the report-card mandates further, according to the aide, who asked not to be named, because one of the main goals of the bill is to ease federal requirements on school districts.

Connecticut, Hawaii, and Nevada already publish the expanded report cards that the center is requesting, the report says.

Texas also reports such data, according to DeEtta L. Culbertson, a spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency. The report cards posted on the state’s Web site include state test scores, attendance rates, dropout rates, teacher information, and budget figures. “Districts have to report all this information anyway,” she said. “It’s just a matter of putting it back in a different format.”

A version of this article appeared in the April 18, 2001 edition of Education Week as Advocate for Poor Communities Urges Detailed Data on Report Cards

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