Saturday, May 27, 2023

A new way to choose the best school for your child

When parents look for information to help them choose a good primary or secondary school for their child, they often turn to a variety of sources online.

For example, they can check state government websites that offer “report cards” on local schools. Examples include the School Quality Profile of Virginia or the School Report Card of Ohio.

Parents can also rely on popular school rating websites such as, or U.S. News & World Report’s K-12 School Directory, which help parents find the “best” school for their child. claims to do.

As a researcher who specializes in education policy, I see some drawbacks in how many of these websites reflect school quality to the public. I am interested in what kind of information parents use to make school-related decisions. I also study how parental decisions about which school to choose for their child can affect student diversity within schools.

Along with fellow education researcher Jeffrey Hennig, I conducted a survey with a nationally representative sample of 2,800 parents or caregivers of children under the age of 12. With financial support from the Spencer Foundation and technical support from YouGov, we embedded an experiment in the survey for viewing. How enrollment decisions may differ if parents choose schools based on different types of academic performance data.

More specifically, we enabled parents to view school academic performance in two different ways: achievement status and achievement enhancement. Achievement status is based on students’ current levels of academic performance, while achievement enhancement considers students’ academic performance over time.

We found that when parents are given information on achievement enhancement, they tend to choose schools that are not only more effective in teaching their students but are also more demographically diverse.

status vs development

To make more informed choices for their children, parents need a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of these two methods of measuring academic performance of schools. But many websites meant to help parents choose schools – whether government or commercial sites – only provide information about achievement status.

Achievement status refers to the academic performance of individual students at a point in time. For example, 50% of fifth graders at a fictional school may be proficient in reading, as measured by the state’s annual reading test. Such achievement status measures provide a rough understanding of how students are performing in the subjects tested.

However, achievement status does not tell the public much about how schools contribute to students’ learning. Students face various obstacles in and out of school, such as the challenges of poverty and racial discrimination, and they enter school with varying levels of preparation. As a result, schools with relatively high achievement status are disproportionately white and wealthy.

Achievement growth, on the other hand, refers to the rate of change in academic performance of individual students from one year to the next. Consider the same hypothetical school where 50% of the fifth graders are proficient in reading. But a year ago, when the same student was in fourth grade, only 40% were proficient in reading. Something very positive is happening at this school, but people will miss it if the focus is exclusively on the 50% proficiency rate. Instead of looking at results for one year, measures of achievement growth change this way over time.

Some researchers argue that development is a better measure of school effectiveness than status. For example, education researcher Morgan Polikoff notes how indicators of achievement status, such as proficiency rates, “essentially measure who is enrolled in a school, not how well the school is doing at educating them. “

“Because such status measures only capture students’ current performance levels, proficiency rates are highly correlated with student socioeconomic status and other demographics,” Polikoff wrote. “Development-based measures, on the other hand, may show student changes from year to year and better reflect school effectiveness or contribution to student learning.”

In other words, the educational development of a school has little to do with the people enrolled in the school and more to do with the work the school is doing to educate those students.

Some may wonder whether a school’s achievement growth rate simply reflects the fact that, for many schools serving disadvantaged students, those students may have more room to grow. In fact, there are roughly as many high-growth schools that serve disproportionately affluent students as there are high-growth schools that serve low-income students. As it turns out, all students – regardless of their background – have the same potential to learn and grow.

If parents are given data about school academic development, they are more likely to choose schools with racial diversity.
Will and Denny McIntyre / Getty Images

to more diverse schools

For my study, I asked participants to choose between three randomly chosen schools taken from the same randomly chosen school district somewhere in the United States. To guide this choice, participants received a range of demographic information about each school, such as the percentage of white, black and Hispanic students and the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches. A common measure of loss. In addition, some participants were randomly assigned to receive information about each school’s average status, average growth, or both.

What I found is that when parents are provided with information about a school’s current academic performance, they tend to choose higher-status schools, which on average have more students who are white and higher income from families. However, when parents are provided with student growth data, they tend to choose high-growth schools, many of which serve low-income students and large proportions of students of color.

For this reason, school rating websites that only provide achievement status information are essentially leading families to the whitest and most affluent schools in a community. This increases school segregation, especially if white and affluent families are more likely to have the economic means to decide where they want to live and send their children to school.

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Increasingly, school districts and states include growth figures in their reports on local schools. As of 2020, 43 states and the District of Columbia report achievement growth in their annual school report cards.

However, with the exception of, most school rating websites have not yet included student achievement growth data in the range of information they provide.

Growth has been made even more difficult to measure by the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, annual standardized tests were canceled in 2020 and were often administered in revised formats in 2021. It will be more challenging – but not impossible – for states to accurately calculate growth for the next few years because of missing and revised tests during the pandemic.

future of growth data

Calculating the growth rate of students on tests is a technical and complicated process. It is often difficult for many people to understand the consequences. The next step in my research is to identify more effective and intuitive ways of taking development data to the masses.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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