June 30, 2009

Grading reports that grade states, which have schools that grade

It's now a PR cliche in education wonkery: grade states. Issue grades, and that's a hook for reporters to write stories about the reports, because the reporters at daily metros can say, "[Your state's name here] receives 'F' in think tank report on education." But beyond the PR value of grades, it's facile, which is why I'm surprised Education Sector gave into this particular venal sin in its report on states' higher-ed accountability policies. C'mon folks: can't you figure out a more substantive way of evaluating states? At the very least, this is so 1990s.

So I'm thinking about developing a report over the next year that grades think-tank reports that issue grades for states on some matter of education, where of course schools have teachers who grade students. Among the standards will be the following:

Clear standards for grades: a year before the report is issued, does the entity that issues the report publish grading standards or criteria?

A - Entity publishes grading standards with sufficient criterion specificity that an outside observer would not be surprised at the grade a state receives the next year. (Note: this is a low bar, not requiring agreement with grades.)

B - Entity publishes standards, but standards are too vague to provide benchmarks for policy progress.

C - Entity has previously published reports issuing grades to states, but changed the standards, or described the project and the areas where states would be grade, but no standards for those areas.

D - Entity has previously published the existence of the report project, but there is no previous publication of intent to grade states in this area of policy.

F - Report appears out of the blue with no publication of intent in this area.

Okay, folks: where does today's Education Sector report fit? How about Ed Week's annual Quality Counts phonebook? Fordham's reports that issue grades?

And, yes, if I'm serious about this, that implies I have to develop some more grading criteria. After all, it would be most interesting and ironic if I created a report that contained the mechanism by which the report itself could be torn apart. Hint, hint, ...

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Posted in Accountability Frankenstein on June 30, 2009 2:11 PM |