New York City Reduces Reliance on Test Scores in New Accountability Plan

By Catherine Gewertz — October 01, 2014 2 min read
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New York City is tossing out the A-F school grading system adopted under former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and has created a new accountability system that gives more weight to school factors such as good curriculum and positive climate, and less weight to test scores.

The city department of education has posted on its website samples of the new reports that will be generated for schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

The new accountability plan was first reported Tuesday by The New York Times. Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña is expected to announced it formally today.

It isn’t the first move the city has made under new Mayor Bill de Blasio to downplay the importance of test scores. In April, the education department announced that students’ promotions would no longer be based on a single test score.

Fariña told the Times that the new accountability system “makes things much more transparent, and it actually gives a lot more information both to parents and to staff about where they need to move and how they need to move.”

The old system produced two annual reports for schools: one with an overall grade as well as grades in four subcategories, and a “quality review” that sized up the school in areas such as quality of instruction. The new system will produce two reports: a “school quality snapshot” for parents, and a “school quality guide” for administrators. There are also “family guides” that explain the reports.

Instead of letter grades, the four-page quality snapshot uses categories from “poor” to “excellent” to report on school factors such as how well the school assesses what students are learning and how well teachers work together. It reports on the percentages of students that met state standards on math and English/language arts tests compared to other schools in the city.

It also rates parents’ satifaction with their children’s education, and teachers’ assessment of the “order and discipline” in the school. At the middle and high school levels, the snapshot includes feedback from students about the quality and variety of course offerings.

The 16-page school quality guides go into more detail, and provides three years of data. Instead of letter grades, it describes schools in terms of whether they are “not meeting,” “meeting,” “approaching,” or “exceeding” targets in student progress, student achievement, school environment, and closing the achievement gap, based on surveys, test scores and other data.

The chancellor is expected to provide more details Wednesday on how the city will use the reports to apply pressure to schools to improve.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.