Dear Members of the Board of Education,
OSSE is now collecting input on the ESSA Report Card. There was a contentious debate about the STAR rating prior to the vote on what DC would submit as part of the ESSA Accountability Plan.
It was acknowledged during the vote that the rating was imperfect. It does not have any growth measure for high school. The students take the PARCC one time. It overwhelmingly advantages schools that have admission requirements or do not accept overage students. Their test scores are naturally higher when they enter in 9th grade. It severely handicaps the schools that are welcoming students with more challenges including English Language Learners and students with Special Needs. The accountability framework is limited. It does not include any measure of school climate or culture. The STAR rating is the most limited element. We do not want to see it elevated.
The format of the report card communicates what is important. It has power. The draft circulated by OSSE chose to put the STAR rating in the heading of every screen right under the school name. It will remind the reader as often as possible that this is a 1 star or a 5 star school. The children and families in these 1, 2 or 3 STAR schools may love their school; they may be getting one on one attention and excellent instruction. This simplistic rating actually denigrates their choice. Schools are not on YELP as stores or movies. They are required to do something far more complex.
We would like to see our city invest in and support our students and our schools. This rating displayed and used this way, in spite of its limitations will discourage and brand children, families and schools. This is antithetical to what we want to see for the children of the District of Columbia. We understand that the Board of Education in a divided vote chose to move forward with the accountability structure that includes the STAR rating as one element. That element with an explanation of what it is measuring can be captured on one tab.
Further we would like to see the Board make it clear that the STAR system is still imperfect and should not be used as a single measure of a school’s quality. The Added Value to measure growth needs further development; high schools need a growth measure; and the commitment to have a measure for school climate is in process.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We hope that our concerns will be noted and reflected in the final draft presented to you. If not, we hope that you will require this change prior to a vote or vote against it.
Cc: Ms. Hanseul Kang – District of Columbia State Superintendent
Senior High Alliance of Parents, Principals and Educators
Cathy Reilly – Executive Director