Now, measure your child’s school on more than just test scores

yourschoolInsideGrading schools based on test scores is all the rage these days.

But today, with the release of Your School, The Connecticut Mirror is providing a broad collection of additional measures parents can use to judge their child’s school.

Here are a few data categories Your School provides:

  • How much experience do teachers have, and how do their salaries compare with those in other districts?
  • How many days are teachers absent?
  • What is the student-to-counselor ratio?
  • How much time do students spend taking art or music courses?
  • What’s the average class size?
  • How often are students disciplined?

The entry for each school shows how it compares to similar schools, as determined by size, socioeconomic factors, and student needs.

The state’s accountability system relied solely on test scores for years. In 2012, the state began including high school graduation rates, and state officials hope to further expand the factors on which they measure schools by next school year.

“It’s appropriate to try and look at other indicators to get a more complete picture,” said Ajit Gopalakrishnan, the leader of the State Department of Education’s performance office.

The department plans to ask the U.S. Department of Education in March, as part of its request for a waiver under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, to include additional, non-test-based measures.

Those measures include student access to high-level courses, such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual-enrollment college courses.

“We need to get many more of our students exposed to more challenging courses,” Gopalakrishnan said, pointing out that participation is what will be measured, not how students do on the course exams.

Another measure will be how many students are chronically absent, and how well the school is doing to bring that rate down. Other measures include how many students go on to enroll in college or other post-secondary programs, how much access students have to art courses, and how students do on physical fitness assessments, already given to students in various grades.

“There were other indicators that we considered but decided against,” said Gopalakrishnan, noting that measures could be added in the future.

The state’s school ratings are used to determine which schools need more support — and typically additional funding — from the state.

“It’s not to blame schools or label schools. It’s not to call a school a failing school. It’s to bring them the support they need,” said Gopalakrishnan.

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