State school board should release survey data

2013-10-13T05:00:00Z State school board should release survey dataBy the H&R Editorial Staff Herald-Review.com
October 13, 2013 5:00 am  • 

STATE EDUCATION officials asked for the opinion of parents, teachers and students last spring on how well their school and their school leaders were performing.

But the Illinois State Board of Education doesn’t trust parents, teachers and students with the data from that survey. It’s yet another example of the education bureaucracy in Illinois wanting community help and input, but only on their terms.

According to an editorial in the Chicago Tribune, the state spent $600,000 on a survey that focused on what are called the “5Essentials” for a good school. Those essentials are effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment and ambitious instruction. In Chicago Public Schools, where the surveys are performed regularly and the data has been available to the public since 2011, it’s been proven that schools that score high on the 5Essentials are 10 times more likely to have shown student improvement in math and reading scores than schools that score lower.

All school districts in the state were required to provide the surveys, and the state board encouraged districts to launch a publicity effort to make sure the surveys were filled out. That worked — 140,409 teachers, 195,946 parents and 816,513 students in sixth through 12th grade spoke up about what was right and wrong in their schools. That’s about 75 percent of teachers statewide and about 70 percent of students. The survey was designed by experts at the University of Chicago, which is well-known for respectable studies and interpretation of education data.

But the state board has decided, apparently under pressure from school administrators, that the information on individual schools won’t be shared this year. The data has been shared with school administrators and principals, and state officials said the school-specific data would be shared after next year’s survey. The public will be able to see the data in a combined form, but the information that students, teachers and parents want — how their individual school is performing — won’t be available this year.

Peter Goddard, chief performance officer for the board, told the Tribune the board wanted “to have the same level of confidence in the data as we do in other data,” so it was decided to “proceed with caution.”

Goddard’s response hints at some sort of problem with the data, but there haven’t been any specifics on the problem, if there is any. The University of Chicago is well-known for its data and research and the state board, school districts and individual schools can certainly explain the results.

A more logical answer for the state board’s foot-dragging on releasing the data is that school districts and principals might be embarrassed about having key constituents — students, parents and teachers — reveal the strengths and weaknesses in individual districts and schools.

It’s almost a parochial stance by the state board: We can’t trust the folks who teach, learn and send their children to our schools with the facts.

Parents, teachers and students can handle the truth. It’s terribly bad policy, and downright rude, to ask people to participate in a taxpayer-funded survey, and then refuse to share the results.

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