A New Way To Assess Schools

By JACOB PERRYMAN

jperryman@timesobserver.com

The gap referred to in the term “closing the gap” in Pennsylania’s new school evaluation system is figured by taking the percentage of students who score proficiently on state exams and subtracting it from 100 percent.

This presents an achievement “gap” between the number of proficient students and full proficiency for schools to use as a baseline.

For the purposes of the performance evaluation, the benchmark for school success is set at closing half of this gap. Therefore, a school with 70 percent proficiency would have a baseline gap of 30 percent (100 percent – 70 percent = 30 percent), and the resultant benchmark would be an increase in proficiency of 15 percent, or one half of the gap.

Evaluation scores are determined by the percentage of the benchmark the school has succeeded in meeting over a six year period.

Individual year scores are determined by dividing the total benchmark by six, to represent the six year cycle. For instance, using the 15 percent benchmark, a school would need to raise proficiency by 2.5 percent each year to score 100 percent for that year. Scores are cumulative, so when doing assessments a school that achieved three percent in one year, but only two percent the next year, would receive 100 percent in both years as the cumulative percentage total is five (2.5 percent x 2 = 5 percent total in two years and 3 percent + 2 percent = 5 percent cumulative total).

“This gives you a number to hit,” Weber said.

The percentage for “closing the gap” is in turn calculated as a percentage out of 100. For instance, using the 15 percent benchmark, a school that increased proficiency by 12 percent would receive a “closing the gap” score of 80 percent (12 is 80 percent of 15).

These calculations would be done for writing, reading, science and mathematics for all students and for just “historically underperforming” students and each will count as five percent of a school’s total performance profile score.