Current, Flawed Indicators Driving Federal Policy Must be Replaced with New, Research-Based Indicators that Can Help Identify and Improve Problems in Low-Performing High Schools, Says Alliance for Excellent Education
Washington, DC–A new policy brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education argues that the nation must move away from solely relying on test scores and graduation rates to evaluate high schools if it is to successfully stem the high school dropout crisis and prepare all students for college and career. Instead, the brief, Moving Beyond AYP: High School Performance Indicators, calls for the use of more sophisticated indicators that can determine the factors that contribute to a school’s poor performance, guide the development of improvement strategies, and measure interim progress along the way.
“The ‘check engine’ light on your car tells you that you need to look under the hood, but it can’t tell you which specific part you need to replace,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Similarly, test scores and graduation rates can identify problem schools, but they can’t tell you why they’re low-performing. It’s time to move from simply looking underneath the hood to fixing the problem.”
The brief outlines a number of high school performance indicators that research has shown are predictive of high school graduation and college and career readiness. They include attendance, course success, on-track-to-graduation status, course-taking patterns, success on college- and career-ready assessments, postsecondary success rates, and school climate. It also describes the research behind these indicators, measurement options and challenges, and current use across the nation.
However, under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) is used to establish goals, measure school performance, and guide intervention decisions. According to the brief, AYP is fundamentally flawed at the high school level because of weak and inconsistent definitions of proficiency and graduation rates that are not aligned to the goal of every student graduating ready for college and career.
“With the reauthorization of the ESEA on the horizon, federal lawmakers have an excellent opportunity to reinvent current federal accountability and school improvement systems so that they are focused on more and better data that helps to tailor instruction and support to the individual needs of schools and students,” Wise said.
Specifically, the brief calls on federal policymakers to
- establish graduation and college and career readiness as the goal for all students and high schools;
- improve national indicators for measuring college- and career-ready graduation;
- reinvent accountability and school improvement to include multiple high school performance indicators;
- invest in state and local systems to collect, analyze, and communicate data, including high school performance indicators;
- build the capacity of educators and education leaders to use high school performance indicators; and
- invest in research activities to inform the use of various high school performance indicators.
The brief is available for download here.
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The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC-based policy, research, and advocacy organization that works to make every child a graduate, prepared for postsecondary education and success in life.
For more information about the Alliance for Excellent Education, please visit www.all4ed.com.