Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Scope your school

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools today released progress reports giving 2009 enrollment data, test scores, teacher credentials and survey results on safety for each school.
The Observer has also updated its School House profiles of CMS schools, which give at-a-glance school comparisons and survey results highlighting what teachers and students say about a school's strengths and weaknesses.
Both reports land as many families are data-delving in response to proposed boundary and magnet changes. School research is likely to pick up even more as people prepare for CMS's January application period for 2009-10 assignments.
Both formats provide data snapshots that can help families size up what's working and what's not, though numbers never provide a full picture of any school.
The CMS reports include a letter from the principal, and details on test-score performance and racial/economic gaps. There's information about year-to-year progress, along with explanations of the state's ABC ratings and the federal "Adequate Yearly Progress" numbers. Also included are data on teacher experience and qualifications, safety ratings, parent involvement and student/computer ratios.
The Observer reports provide a quick-scan look at how school pass rates compare, with links that break down each school's performance by gifted students, low-income students, English learners and racial groups. For instance, you can see what percent of that school's gifted students earned "above grade level" scores compared with district averages, or whether low-income students at that school fare better or worse than those across CMS.
The Observer profiles also highlight more survey data. For instance, you can see what percent of teachers said their school has effective strategies to catch students with weapons, then click on the question to see how that compares with all other schools.
In past years, both the Observer has highlighted teacher responses to questions about their school's effectiveness, their own job satisfaction and their principal's effectiveness. In 2009 CMS eliminated those questions from its teacher survey.
N.C. school report cards, which provide extensive data about all public schools in the state, haven't been updated with 2009 data yet. Those updates usually come in January.

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