Here’s a sign of hopeful change. The federal government has used standardized tests as valid measures of school quality for the past decade. The Chicago Board of Education has decided to discontinue the practice. Accountability experts have cautioned against rating schools by test scores for years. The test scores are highly correlated with family income. Schools in affluent districts getvhigh ratings, while schools enrolling the poorest kids get low ratings and are likely to be punished instead of helped.

Sarah Macaraeg of the Chicago Tribune wrote:


The Chicago Board of Education has voted to adopt a more “effective and fair” approach to assessing the performance of schools, replacing the district’s School Quality Rating Policy with a framework shaped by input from more than 20,000 members of school communities.

The previous method, relying largely on standardized test results to judge schools’ performance, penalized schools serving predominantly disadvantaged students, district officials and research partners said.

“Part of what started this was our communities being very clear about the harm that they felt from a ranking and ratings system that didn’t just make them feel like it was something about their schools, but something deficient with them as people, as communities, as parents,” board member Elizabeth Todd-Breland said of schools issued low ratings under the prior system, which was in effect from 2013-20.

Shifting toward a model of shared responsibility, district CEO Pedro Martinez said the new policy will be more responsive to the needs of school communities.

Doing away with summative ratings, the “Continuous Improvement and Data Transparency” policy will instead measure a range of “indicators of success.” Those include not only academic progress but also student well-being, quality of daily learning experiences, school inclusivity and the capacity of staff to collaborate in teacher learning.

“We are really focusing on what matters most: what’s happening in our schools and filling out the gaps to ensure that our educators have the resources and the support that they need, so that we can get the student outcomes that we all want for our babies in Chicago,” Chief Portfolio Officer and CPS parent Alfonso Carmona said at Wednesday’s school board meeting, where the vote to do away with the SQRP system was taken.

How the policy was developed also matters, in fulfilling the district’s stated commitment to equity, said Natalie Neris, chief of community engagement for the nonprofit Kids First Chicago, which partnered with CPS in engaging parents, students, experts, the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, the Chicago Teachers Union and others in the school accountability redesign.

“We can’t continue to say that we want to create systems that are fair and then not include the people who are part of those systems in co-creating and co-producing the policy that they’re impacted by,” she said.