A key element in bringing about a competitive education industry is falling into place thanks to the Internet.
Parents whose children attend government schools often lack a reliable source of information on how their child’s school compares to others in the region or state. Moreover, polls consistently show parents are reluctant to criticize their local schools.
A new Heritage Foundation Web site may be the answer parents are looking for. Www.heritage.org/reportcards provides access to school rating reports not only for parents seeking information on schools they might want to put their child into, but also for those seeking more information on the school their child already is in.
Compiled by Heritage education analyst Thomas Dawson and researcher Mira Zawadzki, “Report Card Report: America’s Best Web Sites for School Profiles,” is a valuable resource not only for parents, but also educators and lawmakers.
The Heritage report card Web site provides links to scores of Web sites that provide a range of information on schools in districts across the nation, including academic rankings, test scores, student-teacher ratios, enrollment totals, per-student expenditures, and percentages of special-education students.
Thirty-three states already post school information online; Dawson expects the rest to follow suit, as legislation now being considered by Congress would require states to issue such report cards.
For each state, the Heritage site presents links to a list of sites that provide information about schools in the state. Parents in California, for example, will find there are three other report cards on the state’s public schools in addition to the ones produced by the California Department of Education. Those additional reports are produced by an ad-hoc group called the Education Data Partnership; a nonprofit organization known as Great Schools; and a parent-run group, School Wise Press.
In Michigan, the Web site provides a link to the new Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation Service, which unveiled its comprehensive reports on all of the state’s public schools in May. The service, available at www.ses.standardandpoors.com, just added reports for the state’s charter schools.
Pennsylvania has contracted with S&P for the production of similar reports, which not only provide data on school test scores, costs, staffing, and demographics, but also give a written evaluation of how each school’s academic and financial statistics compare with similar schools in the state.
Grading the Grades
The Heritage Web site is likely to be updated as improved presentations of the basic state report card data are developed by other organizations. For example, the Chicago Sun-Times’ compact school report cards at www.suntimes.com/schools make Illinois school data much more comprehensible than the nine-page reports on each school from the Illinois Department of Education.
One statistic that would add value to all report cards is the cost per finished student: the percentage of students who graduate meeting state standards divided by the average cost per student. (See “New Measure Calculates Cost Per Prepared Student,” School Reform News, September 1998.)
Dawson and Zawadzki aim to improve report card development by assigning grades to current school report cards. They list what they consider to be the top 10 Internet-based school report cards. All of them use different approaches, but each contains accessible, easy-to-understand information.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
|State of Colorado||A-||www.state.co.us/schools/accuntability_report.htm|
50 states by fall
|School Wise Press||A-||www.schoolwisepress.com|
|State of Kentucky||B+||www.kde.state.ky.us/comm/commrel/school_report_card/|
|State of Pennsylvania||B+||www.paprofiles.org|
|State of Arizona||B+||www.ade.state.az.us/srcs/|
|Parent Information Center
The Independence Institute
|Just for the Kids||B||www.just4kids.org|
|Georgia Public Policy Foundation||B||www.gppf.org|