Federal, state, and private education leaders launched a web site Jan. 29 that promises unprecedented access to information about public school performance.
The site, www.SchoolResults.org, will serve as a clearinghouse for new state report cards on education, including data broken down to the school district and school building level.
Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the new federal education law, states must report data on a range of fronts, including teacher qualifications and achievement among all major population groups of students.
The web site is designed to present that information in a convenient and uniform way, so parents and policy makers can make comparisons across districts and track student progress.
The U.S. Education Department (ED) and the Broad Foundation are sharing the $9 million cost of the project’s first phase. Six states–Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington–are the first to take part. Organizers hope to post data from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico by summer.
“There’s no more important contribution we could make as Americans than to improve and reform public education,” said Eli Broad, a public school reform advocate and founder of the Broad Foundation.
“The new web site gives parents real information in real time,” Broad said. “It gives superintendents a way to compare how their district is doing compared to other districts in the state.”
For each school, district, county, and state, the web site shows the subjects and grades in which students are making the grade.
“In Minnesota, we have been working toward some type of tool like this for years,” Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said. “I’m excited to have a usable, ready tool today.”
Parents, teachers, and taxpayers can use SchoolResults.org to see the data for themselves and find out how schools are performing. “The bottom line is, we want to know: Are the funding and reform initiatives really improving education?” Pawlenty said.
“We were thinking of instituting this project on our own, so it was great when someone else was going to come in and pay for it,” Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner said.
The Broad Foundation, with help from ED, is paying about $54 million for the initial cost creating SchoolResults.org and entering the data for the first two years. After that, it appears the states themselves will have to pay for updating the data–an estimated cost of $15,000 per state, per year.
Regarding recent news reports about falsifying school accountability data, SchoolResults.org does not have a way to protect against false data. Instead, the site–which uses the same data reported to ED–relies on the honor system.
“There’s no guarantee that somewhere deep in the system there is not some type of flaw,” said Bill Cox, managing director of Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Services, one of the partners behind the SchoolResults.org web site.
Visitors to SchoolResults.org will see a large map of the United States on the site’s home page. When you click on a state, the site asks you to narrow your search to a school, county, district, or the entire state. From those search results, you can keep drilling down through the site to see a brief summary, a data snapshot, or information about Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), specific subject-area performance, enrollment, and teacher qualifications.
For a particular school, for example, visitors quickly can view basic information such as student enrollment, grade levels served, AYP results, percentage of economically disadvantaged students, and Title I eligibility.
Then, visitors can drill down to see the specific math or reading AYP scores by grade levels for different population groups: white, black, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged, limited English proficiency, and students with disabilities.
For more advanced analysis, visitors can compare one school’s performance with that of others by selecting particular schools by name or by searching for better-performing schools with similar circumstances. Visitors also can project a school’s ability to reach 100-percent proficiency by 2014, the site’s organizers claim.
The site offers a user guide, a description of its tools, and links to information about NCLB. Visitors, especially novice data-crunchers, probably will need to spend some time with these resources to take full advantage of the site’s analysis tools.