Expect to see widespread news coverage of the state’s School Performance Report, an extensively retooled version of the familiar New Jersey School Report Card.  The new report is expected to be released shortly.

Long-standing NJSBA policy stresses the importance of providing the community with indicators of each school’s performance.  The Association believes that the information should enable local boards of education and administrators to compare their schools’ performance with that of similar schools across the state.

Clearly, the following goal of the School Performance Report is consistent with our policy: “Enable stakeholders to engage in local goal-setting, improvement planning, and performance management.”

From all indications, the changes reflected in the School Performance Report will make for an improvement over the previous report card format.  However, they may require some getting used to.  For example, a school’s performance will no longer be compared to its “district factor group,” a measure that consists largely of community-based, rather than school-based, socio-economic indicators.  Instead, each school will now be compared to a more education-specific group of “peer schools.” This new comparison group will be determined by grade configuration and student-level data, such as free and reduced-price lunch participation, the number of English language learners and special education enrollment.

Look also for the inclusion of new information, such as middle school students’ performance in Algebra I, an indicator of college preparedness, according to studies.  The School Performance Report will look at rates of student absenteeism, because studies show that students who miss more than 10 percent of the school year are less likely to be prepared for college.

In addition, the report will include a “student growth percentile” (SGP)—that is, the new state-determined annual progress targets for each student.  The SGP was developed as part of New Jersey’s waiver from federal No Child Left Behind requirements.  They replace the annual yearly progress benchmarks that did not track individual student progress, but instead simply reported the percentage of students scoring at a specific level on standardized tests.

Two NJSBA representatives served on a stakeholder group convened by the state Department of Education to discuss the design of the School Performance Report.  We appreciate the opportunity to provide input on behalf of our members.

As with any change of this magnitude, there are concerns from local school district officials who care deeply about their students and want their schools’ educational programs portrayed accurately.  That concern is certainly understandable.  Going forward, I am sure that the NJDOE will be sensitive to feedback from school board members and administrators and be ready to iron out any wrinkles that might occur.

The new School Performance Report will be a multi-faceted document.  Viewed in the right context, it promises to be a valuable tool in planning educational improvement at the school district level.

These are my Reflections. I look forward to hearing yours.

Next week, along with your NJSBA officers, I will attend the annual conference of the National School Boards Association, representing New Jersey at the NSBA delegate assembly, participating in sessions on issues ranging from student achievement to needed changes in seniority, and presenting a program, “Superstorm Sandy: Unprecedented Disaster, Unprecedented Response.” I will reply to your messages as soon as possible after my return.

Contact me at feinsodreflections@njsba.org.

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