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Assessment News in Brief

No Data, No Honor: Only Nine States Eligible for Award

By Catherine Gewertz — May 08, 2018 1 min read

A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to creating a new award to honor high schools that do a good job preparing students for college: It became nearly impossible.

GreatSchools, an organization that gathers and shares school information to inform parents, wanted to confer its new College Success Awards on schools in every state. But a lack of data forced it to scale the awards down to just nine states.

In a report released late last month, GreatSchools lists the 814 winners of its new award, but also describes the difficulty it had assembling all the information it considers necessary to paint a meaningful picture of how well high schools are doing.

Samantha Olivieri, GreatSchools’ chief strategy officer, said in a call with reporters that the report celebrates the good work in schools, but also serves as a “call to action” to states to publish a wider variety of metrics, all in one place, to provide parents with “a more complete picture of high school quality.”

The idea behind the new award was to tell a more detailed story about schools than standardized-test scores can convey. GreatSchools judged schools in three categories: how well they prepared students for college, based on SAT or ACT scores; the percentage of students who enrolled in college, and how well students performed once they got there.

Trouble is, data in all three categories were available for only Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. (Oklahoma, Connecticut, and Minnesota eventually supplied the data, but were too late for this year.)

Olivieri said that of the three categories of data GreatSchools was searching for, information on college remediation and persistence was the toughest to find.

Even among GreatSchools’ nine winners, missing data led some states to be judged on only one data point while others were judged on two. In Florida, for example, college performance was judged on the basis of persistence data, while in Ohio, that category was judged only on the basis of remedial rates.

Winners represent a disproportionately low share of schools with high poverty rates.

The winners were more likely to provide rigorous academic offerings, in and out of school, and to have systematic ways of identifying and supporting struggling students. They also have “robust” staffs of guidance and college counselors.

A version of this article appeared in the May 09, 2018 edition of Education Week as No Data, No Honor: Only Nine States Eligible for Award

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