March 10, 2016

Contact:
Jaime L. Del Razo, (213) 447-3448, Jaime_Del_Razo@brown.edu
Daniel Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Website claiming to grade schools fails on technical and philosophical grounds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Mar. 10, 2016) – In the fall of 2015, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research launched a new website, SchoolGrades.org, which aimed to provide a means to compare how well America's schools prepare students in core subjects. The website attempts to evaluate and assign letter grades to schools using reading and math test scores. Unfortunately, an academic review released today finds technical and logistical shortcomings associated with the website.

Jaime L. Del Razo, Annenberg Institute for School Reform and Brown University, reviewed the website SchoolGrades.org for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The website claims that the school grades found on the site allow parents to compare local schools against schools across the nation and in other countries using a four-step process.

Del Razo, in his review, notes that the process used to evaluate and assign grades is never fully explained. An investigation of the methods used found that the process apparently: (1) averages two state test scores; (2) "norms" the results to the NAEP exam; (3) makes an adjustment to this nationally normed measure using free and reduced lunch data to account at least partially for differences in socioeconomic status; and then (4) "norms" the results to the international PISA exam.

Ultimately, the review finds that the unsubstantiated norming chain is too tenuous and the results are overly extrapolated, which diminishes their value. Del Razo's technical analysis also finds that the website fails to explain how:

  1. International scores are equated to a national standard created by the website;
  2. Letter grades are determined; and
  3. Free and reduced lunch counts were used to make socioeconomic adjustments.

In his conclusion, Del Razo indicates that the site fails on two grounds; technical and philosophical. He says, "the Manhattan Institute's website fails to advance policy not only on the technical shortcomings of its efforts but most importantly, for not appreciating the purposes of education."

Read the full review at:
http://www.greatlakescenter.org

Find more information about the website at:
http://schoolgrades.org

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:
http://nepc.colorado.edu

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education, Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develp reasearch-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

Visit the Great Lakes Center website at http://www.greatlakescenter.org/