Washington and Ohio’s public education departments both publish “Report Cards” for school districts.
Here’s what they look like:
While both states call them “Report Cards” that’s where the similarities mostly end.
As you can see, Washington’s Report Card is heavy on charts and data with little in the way of narrative to help give context to the numbers. There are tables showing the percentage of students meeting state standards, then more tables that break down student enrollment and graduation rates. What’s missing is any discussion of whether or how those numbers reflect meaningful progress towards goals, how those numbers compare to similarly situated states, districts or schools, or other types of information to give the numbers meaning.
There are other places on the OSPI website that do provide narrative and context about school performance data, but these require lots of clicking through to more reports, which seemed written and designed for OSPI or district administrators, not really for busy parents.
By contrast, Ohio’s School Report Card presents information in a more accessible format requiring just a couple of clicks. It gives parents an easy-to-understand (and mostly jargon free) overview of school and student performance in six categories: Achievement, Progress, Gap Closing, Graduation Rate, Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers and Prepared for Success. Then, if parents want more information, they can click through and see the underlying data. There they will find more detailed explanations about the numbers, explaining what they measure, why it’s important and how that school district or school is doing.
Why does this matter?
If we want parents and communities to be active and knowledgeable participants in our schools, we would be much better served with Report Cards that provide a clear picture of how schools and school districts are performing. While charts that show student scores on state tests and graduation rates are a good start, Washington would do well to follow Ohio’s model and provide parents with jargon-free explanations, summaries of the data and visuals that are easier to follow. Families would especially benefit from explanations in words – not just charts – about the progress schools and districts are making from year-to-year.