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Critique of BPS rating system is asking wrong question

Globe Staff/File/Globe Staff

In your Sept. 9 editorial “BPS owes parents a clearer school rating system,” you assert that the use of an alternative rating system by the Boston Public Schools “can soften the accountability and transparency that ratings are designed to provide.” As a scholar involved in the measurement of school quality, I strongly disagree.

At present, the state of Massachusetts rates schools on a narrow range of metrics, focusing primarily on standardized test scores. As research reveals, however, achievement scores are generally a better indicator of socioeconomic advantage than of school learning. The Globe’s editorial board mockingly asks, of Boston’s approach, “What’s the point of . . . fuzzy criteria in the city system if they don’t lead to strong student performance?” But we have a different question: “What’s the point of student performance measures if they don’t measure what students have learned in school?”


Even if test scores didn’t suffer from this flaw — if the state used only “growth” scores, which are far less indicative of family privilege — such an approach would still capture too little about what matters in education. As polling and research reveal, American families care about a wide range of school processes and outcomes. We should not ignore that simply because the state does.

Jack Schneider


The writer is an assistant professor of education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and is cofounder of the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment.