Data nerds in Oakland rejoiced last November when the Oakland Unified School District released School Performance Framework reports for 2015-16. After a soft launch internal to the District in 2014-15, this was the first public release of the School Performance Framework (SPF) – a snapshot of how schools are doing. We now have an easier, visual, way to understand the current state and trajectory of OUSD schools, with a plan to add all other Oakland public schools (i.e. charters) this coming year.
Why does the SPF matter?
The SPF is a HUGE step to making Oakland school data more visible and understandable to the general public. Like the stars system on Yelp or report cards for students, it puts relevant information into the hands of people who need to know in an easily digestible and visual form.
What’s special about the SPF?
When thinking about school quality, many people tend to gravitate to a single measure: results on standardized tests. Alternatively, word of mouth, and therefore often socioeconomically defined networks of friends and acquaintances, can define reputation more than any objective set of measurements. Both of these extremes are too one-dimensional, or worse, misleading.
The new School Performance Framework from OUSD is a much more equitable, comprehensive, and developmental.
- It looks at both whole school populations AND subgroups that are often left behind in classrooms, such as low-income or African-American students. This highlights achievement gaps between groups of students that might not be immediately evident.
- It captures a number of different factors that contribute to school quality. The SPF includes metrics related to both academic (state testing, reading levels, etc.) and climate (suspensions, EL reclassification rates, etc.). Hooray for a multi-measure approach! All the metrics are scored and weighted, resulting in an aggregate score from 1 to 6 (rounding down to get the tier).
- It considers both absolute performance AND growth. Knowing how much a school has improved is critical for highlighting historically lower-performing schools that are now making huge strides for students.
The overall result? The following bar chart shows the tier by tier comparisons for the soft launch year and last year. We see some mild progress overall, with a 33% decrease in the lowest tier, and a 33% increase in schools in the middle or yellow Tier 3. Tiers 2, 4, and 5, all essentially remained steady. My upcoming posts will delve into the details behind the movements up and down the scale for individual schools, and then what is underlying that in terms of student subgroups and correlation with OUSD programs.
By the way, Oakland has been leading the way on this. In September, the CA State Board of Education adopted an evaluation rubric for schools to replace the old Academic Performance Index (API) that is also multi-measure, includes growth, and absolute performance and looks at subgroups…sound familiar?!
Next up: Who’s improving…and who’s getting left behind? (Looking at 2015-2016 SPF results)