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Decade-old school info site launches new way to judge schools

City eighth-graders who find out on Friday where they will attend high school had only the city’s data to consider when choosing where to apply. Next year’s applicants will have access to a different set of facts and figures — ones that focus as much on the student experience as on student performance.

They will be able to use Insidestats, a feature that the school information website Insideschools officially launched today. Insidestats is a consumer-oriented presentation of public data about high schools that is meant to complement, or perhaps even rival, the information the city distributes.

“We hope to offer a more nuanced picture, because different schools are good at different things,” Insideschools founder Clara Hemphill wrote today on the site. “Some schools take high-achieving kids and push them to ever greater heights. But others do a particularly good job with kids who need special education or English as a Second Language.”

Insideschools previewed the new feature, which currently exists for 422 schools, during an panel discussion about assessing high schools last summer. From our report:

The [city’s] annual high schools directory, issued this week to next year’s eighth-graders, is based largely on schools’ self-reporting. And the progress reports that award schools their annual letter grade are rich in data but difficult for parents to decipher, said Clara Hemphill, Insideschools’ founder and the panel’s moderator.

And neither document signals whether schools are safe or how it feels to be students in them. That’s what parents and students most want to know, said [Jacqueline] Wayans, who conducted focus groups of families as part of the Inside Stats development process.

When Inside Stats goes live on each school’s Insideschools online page, visitors to the site will be able to see whether each school requires a uniform, lets students go out for lunch, gives students access to lockers, and makes them pass through metal detectors to enter each day. They will also see the question “Do students like this school?”, followed by an answer based on results of the Department of Education’s annual survey.

Other information on the reports reflect the same data that the city’s progress reports include, such as graduation and college attendance rates. But the data will take a different form. Instead of seeing a complex representation of statistical “score bands,” Inside Stats readers will see a flowchart of the paths previous students have taken after enrolling. And instead of parsing the language of “peer groups,” the reports simply identify whether a school is “beating the odds” compared to other schools with similar students.

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