Thursday, July 04, 2013

Defining a "School" for the Purposes of Classification

The clearest indication that RIDE's school classification report is designed to serve the needs of the federal government rather than RI parents (other than understanding that it is just an artifact of getting a NCLB waiver) is the way it defines a "school," particularly in the case of charters. Schools are, of course, divided into elementary, middle and high, but how multi-level schools are categorized is an artifact of the chartering process.

Paul Cuffee is a K-12 charter, but it is not organized as one school in terms of location, leadership, etc., and officially it is one school on the charter (I presume). So it is listed as a high school and all the data across grade levels is aggregated. Same for Times2. Times2 is particularly annoying insofar as they get 20/20 for graduation rate despite huge attrition between their elementary level and high school graduation. Take out the inflated high school scores and they go from "Leading" to "Typical." On the whole though, I'm not claiming bias here, it is just that from the parents point of view, there is no possible advantage to not having this data split out by level. You can't make apples to apples comparisons

On the other hand, since Blackstone Valley Prep was formed under a revised charter law, it is currently considered two schools in the RIDE classification, an elementary and a middle school. That's better, except is isn't really one elementary school, it is two. Go look at the website footer. I don't know whether there is a difference in performance between the two schools, which is the point. I don't know. In general, two elementary schools that are part of the same system may well have significant differences, even if curriculum, etc. is the same. For that matter, are the two schools the same demographically? Again, the point is who knows?

For that matter, how are the students placed in each school? Is there actually a separate lottery?

I don't have any particular reason to think anything nefarious is going on, but there is no reason to report two schools as one, ever. As a parent, I don't want to be told I have been accepted to one of two schools, whose data is only available in aggregate. I wouldn't want it in a district or a charter.

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