The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Statement on the School and District Accountability System
September 28, 1999
Before we begin our discussion about the accountability system, I want to offer a couple of thoughts about the school rating method, which has drawn so much commentary.
As you know, schools will be placed on a 6x4 matrix based on a combination of their overall MCAS performance and their improvement over time. Schools will not simply be ranked low-to-high based on their average MCAS scores. Schools will not be deemed under-performing on the basis of their rating. Indeed, no judgment will be made about school quality on the basis of MCAS performance alone, especially in this year, when we do not intend to use descriptive labels. The rating system is used simply to identify those schools, particularly at both ends of the performance spectrum, which deserve closer evaluation. Such evaluation will be based on a wealth of available data plus, if necessary, a detailed on-site inspection by experienced, qualified educators.
There seems to be a fear that the accountability system will defame good schools that operate under difficult circumstances. I believe the opposite will likely be true. Because the rating method includes an improvement factor and because schools that receive a low rating will be subject to a more in-depth evaluation, I expect that many schools that might otherwise look bad on paper, will be shown to be of sound quality.
Others fear that we are moving too swiftly and that schools should not held accountable under this system until all the bugs are worked out. While I appreciate the concerns of the school officials who take this position, the only way we will ever perfect this system is to apply it. In the coming year, it is not our intention to label schools, but rather to use the data that is produced by the rating system to narrowly target our evaluations, so that we can move rapidly up the learning curve and make the most of our limited resources. Moreover, I am inclined to err on the side of early evaluation to ensure that students trapped in demonstrably failing schools are not allowed languish without some kind of remedial intervention.
I believe what we have before us is sound and fair and I hope the Board will give it final approval.