An Overview of School Performance Reports in Correctional Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

School Performance Reports, sometimes referred to as School Report Cards, are an increasingly effective and popular method for collecting program data in Correctional Education. This Overview presents the results of a study examining the current applications of Correctional Education School Report Cards. After inquiring with Offices of Correctional Education from all 50 states, eight (8) State Directors, or their representatives, were interviewed for the study. Findings are intended to identify and to share examples of the use of school performance reports in U.S. adult correctional education programs.

There is minimal state data on prison education regarding enrollments, completions, degrees received, test scores, etc."

"Federal and State justice, corrections and education departments must collaborate to get the data needed to judge the reach and effectiveness of prison education and training programs."

Locked Up and Locked Out: An Education Perspective on the U.S. Prison Population.

(Coley R, Barton, P., 2006)

School Report Cards

Accountability has become the hallmark of today's educational landscape. States, districts and schools have developed ways to demonstrate effectiveness for the purposes of improved practice, communication, and advocacy. Report Cards use outcome-based data, such as test scores, contextual data, and demographics, to evaluate the quality of programs. Report Cards can be an appealing and revealing way to deliver complex information about performance.

The Report Card movement began in 1969, when Congress authorized the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), or The Nation's Report Card," to answer pressing questions about student achievement. Topics of interest included student content mastery in reading, mathematics, science, writing, U.S. history, civics, geography, citizenship and the arts. Today, "Policymakers, educators, and parents rely on the national and state data from NAEP to help them understand how their state's performance compares to the national average and to that of other states, and to assess the extent to which the performance in their state is moving forward or falling behind." (NAEP, 2005)

School Report Cards coalesced in 2003 as a byproduct of President George W. Bush's 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, which required annual testing in reading and math for all students in grades 3-8. These Report Cards are based on state-wide achievement goals and are used to evaluate the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) of schools, school districts, and the state as a whole. Student achievement is categorized as advanced, proficient, or basic and student subgroups are organized by gender, disability, income, English proficiency, race, ethnicity, and migrant status. Schools that do not meet state expectations for AYP are labeled as Needing Improvement, Corrective Action, or Restructuring.

The AYP is celebrated for, "providing more - and more accurate information about school and student performance than we've ever had before." (Hall, Wiener, Carey, 2003) Kurt M. Landgraf, president and CEO of Educational Testing Services (New Jersey), endorses this approach for its attention to demographic subgroups as well as to school factors such as time on task, teacher qualifications, instructional practices, preparation and placement, and alignment of curriculum to the standards. (Landgraf, 2003). AYP is also helpful as a vehicle for data collection on key administrative issues such as graduation rates and school accreditation.

There also has been some criticism of School Report Cards. Grievances include constricted teacher creativity, "teaching to the test", counter-productive student stress, incompatibility of state scores, and widening achievement gaps.

"...it is possible that the state assessment will continue to give a false impression of progress [compared to the more rigorous, national NAEP Standards], shortchanging our children and encouraging more investment into a failed test driven accountability reform policy. …