7 Ways to Rate a School

Posted on: Thu, 08/03/2017 - 10:00

Image removed.If you haven’t heard about our Young Scholars program, it would be worth your time to learn a little about it (you can find a few recent media reports about the program here and here). Our Young Scholars are elementary and middle school-aged students with great academic potential who come from populations currently underrepresented in advanced academic programs. We work with these amazing students during the summer and throughout the school year to provide enrichment and opportunity.

This summer, I went on a field trip with our middle school Young Scholars. While we were out, I tried to gather some opinions and advice from the group (I truly believe our students are ultimately our “customers” – I never miss a chance to hear about how we’re serving them and how we can do better).

I asked them to share with me what they believed were the most important things a Superintendent or a Board Member should consider in deciding if a school is awesome or not too good. 

Here are their answers in the order in which they gave them to me:

  1. See if the students are happy. If they are happy, then the school is a good place.
  2. Watch how the teachers teach. Students should be active and doing exciting things. They should not be doing busy work.
  3. You should see students working hard and being challenged.
  4. What students are doing should be memorable. (I told the young man who gave this answer that I absolutely love that word choice!)
  5. Check out the types of opportunities the students have for clubs, like chess club or other clubs where students can pursue their interests.
  6. Look for teachers who care about their students. They should have good relationships with us.
  7. Maybe you should look at test scores. (When I probed and asked why, the response was that it may help me be sure that students have learned.)

These responses are nearly identical to what I hear from high school seniors when I interview them about their experiences as a student. Students know when school is a welcoming place and when quality learning happens. They also know the value of a caring teacher who pushes them to be their best and supports them to succeed. Parents and families know these things too.

As state leaders in Annapolis are busy working on a draft plan for how we hold Maryland schools “accountable,” I wish more of the criteria identified by our Young Scholars were included.  While adults focus on things like test scores (which are one important but not determinative metric), they run the risk of losing sight of the things that matter most to our students.

What’s that old expression, “Out of the mouths of babes…”

Think you have other good metrics we should be using to evaluate our schools? Share them with me on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And whether or not you agree with this post, if you enjoyed it, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.

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Young Scholars