What Is and Isn’t in the Stars?

Posted on: Tue, 12/11/2018 - 09:00

The Maryland State Department of Education recently released the first series of report cards as part of the new accountability system required by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Schools received a rating of 1 to 5 stars.

image of 5 starsAs I reviewed the report cards for each of Frederick County’s public schools, I was incredibly proud of the achievements of every school.  All of our schools received 3 or more stars in the new accountability system that assesses a variety of measures including achievement on state-mandated tests, access to a quality curriculum, attendance, and more. You can see information about the new report cards and each school’s results here.

Our staff works diligently to deliver high quality instruction and support to nearly 43,000 students. Our student population is very diverse and presents many unique needs. For every one of our schools to receive a rating of 3 stars or above is a significant accomplishment, and our staff should be celebrated!

Inevitably, people will want to compare schools based on these ratings. However, I am not sure it is possible to truly explain the difference between a 3 or 4 or 5 star school beyond citing the percentage of points earned.  As a local business leader commented, “How can you ever distill the complexity of a school into a single rating? You cannot.

A parent from Frederick, Ms. Claudia Nealley, offered this frank, personal observation about one of our 3 star schools:

The decency that Frederick High School teaches will never be captured by this dumb ranking system. My kids come from a middle class lifestyle. While at FHS, they learned that many of their peers wish they had that lifestyle. My kids spent lunches spontaneously talking with friends about what makes something cultural appropriation. My son went to CMU (starting right tackle) and majored in engineering. CMU connected him to many people who have much more money than we do. But... he sees the continuum better than his peers.... He is a deeply compassionate young man, and much of his world vision started at FHS. (Thank you to many teachers like Matt Johnston and Beth Strakonsky) My daughter is still at FHS. She too will graduate from FHS with a much deeper view of the human condition because of her experience there. Justice and fair treatment of others is so important to my daughter. She has learned to think beyond her own perspective. (Thank you to the FHS people) I challenge any of our local high schools and their communities, private or public, to be able to do what FHS does every day.

Mrs. Nealley makes valid points. No matter how skilled the psychometrician or how sophisticated the statistical model, we will never be able to fully measure the success of a school – that answer lies within each and every student.

So please join with me in celebrating Frederick County’s outstanding schools and amazing teachers and staff. Please share your reactions and observations on the new school report cards 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.