School Ratings, Beyond the Number

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The task for this assignment was to “mine” material, or story ideas from the web, old drafts, social media, etc. the inspiration came at me from Discover on Reader. The post is https://integratedschools.org/2018/05/30/the-problem-with-great-schools/comment-page-1/?blogsub=confirming#blog_subscription-6 Author Ali McKay from Integrated Schools.org, wrote an article which addressed questions that had been on my mind for some time. I understood the piece was encouraging parents to look beyond the numbers published by the GreatSchools.org rating systems. She explained that based on her own experience, she was pleasantly surprised that although the school she chose for her family was not in the top percentile, the school has been a good match for her children of different ages and skill level. The system does not give a complete picture of whether or not that school is a good fit for your child as it doesn’t take into account other tangibles such as the human factor. Ms. Mckay also notes there appears to be a correlation between racial percentages and the number indicators. The author notes that GreatSchools’ president, Mathew Nelson, encourages parents to visit the school and talk to parents in the community before making the decision that’s right for them. Where I come from that is called CYA on the part of Mr. Nelson. Check out the article attached for more.

There are many aspects of the public education debate that cause me to have concerns. As I was doing additional research to substantiate my post, I went down the proverbial rabbit hole. I found more unsettling articles about where our political leaders are taking public education, and as I have said before, these problems did not start with the 2016 elections but at least back to the Reagan area. I decided to leave a good portion of my findings to dole out in smaller increments and will publish them over the summer.

Questions about the future of public education have been swirling in my head for decades; since I sat on School Improvement and Education Reform meetings when my own kids were in school. However, now that I have a granddaughter who just finished Kindergarten in a Public School system this year, I’m forced to look at the question that I’ve been avoiding – “now what?” On a personal level, we are grateful that she had an uneventful year, considering that active shooter drills are now part of the school experience. Some liken them to fire drills or duck and cover drills in my era – but not quite. She’s a bright, resourceful and caring child but she is not a fan of going to school because she hates just sitting around for long hours (paraphrasing). She enjoys learning, and her parents make sure she and her sister have plenty of resources at home to complement their education.

The school, my granddaughter, attended last year was about a couple of miles from her home and was rated an overall 7 and 8 for test scores by GreatSchools.org. According to the report on the site, the student body is 85% white, 4% mixed race/ethnicity, 3% black and 12% are considered low-income families. For the most part, her parents heard good things about the school and yet at the beginning of the school year, they worried about the choice to send her public schools. Both parents are college grads, volunteer on a once or twice a month on a regular basis. They find the administrative support staff is pleasant and the teachers that they have encountered seem interested in the success of the students. The school has one principal, no assistant, and one counselor hour for every one hundred students. There is one nurse and one art teacher that come to the school two days a week and work at another school two days a week. They have a resource room to watch pre-recorded lessons, a library and they have a computer room. It appears that this school’s focus is teaching to test scores.

By comparison, a friend of the family has children in public schools within the city limits approximately ten miles from the other school. On GreatSchools.org that school has an overall rating of 5 and for test scores a 6. The student body makes up is 43% white, 36% black, 10% mixed ethnic/race, 67% low-income families. Both parents also college grads and both parents also volunteer in the school. The school has a more interactive educational approach and a fine arts and recreation program which include music and art lessons after school. The kids seem to have a more enjoyable experience, but l may be projecting.

When this family wanted to move, they tried to find an affordable house within that school district. With the fluctuation of the housing market, they did not find what they were looking for. The other option was to move out of the city limits, which would put the kids in the County’s School system and they could then apply for the School Choice Option. If accepted the parents had to pay fees comparable the city’s cost per child rate. On paper the idea sounds great, at least if they don’t live in the district, they can take still take advantage of the school’s programs, without using tax dollars. Keep in mind this is a “low rated” school.

I worked Real Estate for several years and more often than not, I would meet young families with corporate transfers who had researched schools online and would not consider anything outside of the recommendations of the school rating system, often these homes had bigger price tags. Interesting to note is that many of the ads on these sites are sponsors by real estate companies. Ali McKay’s article presents this as an example of modern segregation in today’s education system and consequently the Real Estate market.

To emphasize Ms. MacKay’s point about GreatSchools.org ratings, I found just by comparing these two schools; the score is not necessarily a reflection of how good or bad a school is. The school in the city with a more varied student body was rated 2 points lower than the other school. I find it ironic that the school with the better test scores and higher rating has limited resources in some essential areas. Is it that the school has not requested additional funds or it is overlooked in the budget because the school with the better scores has already tested well? What are we missing? What is the X factor?

Day Sixteen: Mine Your Own Material #everydayinspiration

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