Yesterday, we linked to Andrea Zelinski’s story on the Tennessee Charter School Center’s analysis of “seat quality” in Metro Nashville Public schools. In the story, I noted 5 key takeaways, among them that the Center is calling for closing low-performing charter schools and that there does seem to be common ground possible in terms of moving toward expanding charter schools as growth dictates. Both closing low performing charters and allowing expansion in a smart way offer a path forward from what has been a rather messy debate in recent years.
School Board member Amy Frogge has weighed-in on the “quality seat” discussion and offers this analysis on her campaign Facebook page:
The Great Hoax of the “High Quality Seat”:
We’ve been hearing this phrase a lot lately, but what does it actually mean? Those who use it are referring to standardized test scores. The higher the score, the higher the “quality” of the seat and therefore the school, according to these folks.
Here’s the problem. Looking at standardized test scores tells us only a little about a school. If anything,… test scores primarily reflect the types of students a school serves. Children in poverty, children who don’t speak English, and children with special needs struggle with standardized tests- for reasons entirely beyond their control. It’s not that these children are incapable of learning. It’s that they need extra support to succeed. All children hold immense promise, and standardized test scores often don’t reflect a child’s true capability. Tests are just a snapshot of what children can do in certain subject areas in a very specific format on one particular day (or a few days) of the school year.
Are we to assume that magnet schools have better “seats” because they serve children selected for their academic abilities? Are we to assume choice schools have better “seats,” even though the selection of these schools is made by parents engaged enough to know how to enter the lottery? (Research shows that children of engaged parents perform better in school.) Are we to assume that zoned schools that take any child who walks into the doors at any time during the year (no matter how great the child’s academic needs) have lesser quality “seats” because of the scores these children make?
In summary, then, the “quality” of a seat, according to the definition of those who prefer this phrase, has more to do with the child sitting in that seat (and the challenges that he or she faces) than the quality of instruction at a school. To presume otherwise assumes a level playing field, and in comparing schools, we are comparing children, not quality-checking mass-produced, assembly line items. Certainly, scores can help us judge how well a school performs, but it’s not the entire story. Anyone who fails to consider student population in determining the “quality” of a school just isn’t digging deep enough.
If the Charter School Center hoped to continue a conversation, they’ve certainly raised some points to ponder. Frogge has engaged, addressing directly the “quality seat” issue without dismissing the call to close low performing schools or arguing that current limits on charter geography need to stay in place forever.
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I would encourage all to learn more about how the MNPS academic performance framework calculates the score for each school.
The metrics also include school climate data, and other metrics are reflective of instructional quality.
Not all magnet schools are rated high quality on the framework, and there are a number of optional schools that do not score that highly either. There are some optional schools that do score well.
There are some neighborhood schools in lower income neighborhoods, and some schools with higher ELL populations that also score well on the Framework.
There are some charter “choice” schools that do not score well on the Framework.
In sum, the district worked hard and for a long time to create a balanced framework to where a school’s tier is not primarily based on student demographics.
I believe it provides a balanced and good platform to have targeted conversations about improving all schools for all students.
That’s good feedback, Hunter. And a point certainly worth considering.
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