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Where to look for "good measures for good schools"

In the wake of this week’s release of school progress reports, many parents, educators, and policymakers around New York City are asking how to meaningfully assess schools. How much should a parents take a school’s grade into account when deciding where to send their children? What does it mean if a school’s grade rose dramatically or dropped precipitously from last year to this? Do the progress reports provide a complete picture of the work of a school?

In a well-timed coincidence, the National School Board Association’s (NSBA) BoardBuzz points us to two additional resources for figuring out how schools are doing.

On a national level, the U.S. Department of Education released a table charting the progress of American schools on five indicators. The Department of Education concludes that our schools are doing better on 4th and 8th grade student achievement and closing the racial achievement gap, but haven’t made much progress in increasing high school graduation rates or preparing students for success in college.

BoardBuzz suspects the Department of Education might have drawn their indicators from the NSBA’s Center for Public Education list of “Good Measures for Good Schools,” which provides 28 key questions — addressing student achievement, graduation and college, school staffing, funding, and programs and facilities, district and school climate, and student demographics — for parents, policymakers, and the media to ask when thinking about school performance. Each topic page includes links to data sources (such as School Data Direct, a tool that allows you to search for and compare schools and districts) and studies to help answer those questions, and an explanation of the usefulness and limitations of the data.

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