Show-Me: The Grades
The Joplin Globe ran a comprehensive review of "Show-Me: The Grades" in a series of articles and editorials published over the weekend.
The institutional criticism stated by these editorials was that school rankings in general are a "crude tool for measuring [school] improvement" and that the Show-Me Institute’s ranking methodology was "overly simplistic."
As the creator of "Show-Me: The Grades," I understand these criticisms, but that doesn’t mean that our rankings are meaningless or uninformative. A cursory glance of the schools and districts appearing at the top and bottom of our lists confirms anecdotal opinions about many of the state’s best-performing and worst-performing public school systems. And the "report card generator" application is a great tool for graphically comparing test scores by school, district, and state averages. The state should have created such an application for parents and teachers to use years ago.
I would also like to reiterate that the rankings used in "Show-Me: The Grades" are computed by using the state’s own data, which is reported somewhat ambiguously in the news coverage. So any criticism of the MAP index score methodology must ultimately be a criticism of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, rather than the Show-Me Institute’s "agenda." There will always be critics of ranking systems, regardless of methodology. For example, had the Show-Me Institute included No Child Left Behind (NCLB) data instead of MAP scores, critics of NCLB would point out that such performance numbers are suspect and easy to distort. In fact, in a congressional review of NCLB, Missouri admitted as much, stating that officials had actually lowered academic standards in order to "game the system" and report significant academic improvement. And may I remind Missourians of the problems inherent in even the most scientific of rankings.
The Show-Me Institute has not taken a particular position on the quality of Missouri’s public school system based on MAP index rankings. But, in the interest of public transparency, we wanted to make this data readily available to the public. We believe we have done this, and that "Show-Me: The Grades" is ultimately a tool to help Missourians make informed choices. Some parents will value standardized test scores more than others. If parents are happy with the educations their children are receiving at a particular public school, then we are happy too.
As I stated in my interview with the Joplin Globe, this is really about giving parents a greater choice in finding schools that meet their children’s needs:
"If a parent finds from this ranking that their school is not meeting their children’s needs, then why force them to remain in substandard schools?" Hauke said. "But if a parent is happy with where their children are going and that the teachers and staff are doing a good job, by all means it’s a good school."
Isn’t that what education should really be about?