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School annual report cards give picture of performance

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Philadelphia public schools have a new array of performance targets this year, and on its website, the District has published school annual reports showing how each school did.

Since 2003, all public schools have been receiving a federally mandated No Child Left Behind report card and needing to meet performance targets to make adequate yearly progress (AYP). NCLB targets are for test score performance and participation, as well as for attendance and graduation rates.

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman introduced Philadelphia’s own school report cards last fall, saying that schools should be evaluated on a much more varied set of measures than NCLB uses.

Most District schools have 20 to 30 targets to meet, depending on their grade levels and demographics. About half of the measures relate to PSSA test scores. Each school gets individualized annual targets for improvement for every measure on their report.

Schools are expected to meet 80 percent of their targets. But this year, about one-fourth of Philadelphia schools did. Results are one component of how principals are evaluated.

There have been complaints from principals that the targets are not well thought out and sometimes unrealistic.

“We set high bars for our school and our principals in reaching those targets,” responded David Weiner, District chief of accountability, who oversees the reports.

“We see these as an opportunity for our schools to take a hard look at which things are and aren’t going well. We hope they’re starting conversations at our schools.”

Besides test scores, some of the measures on which schools were rated this year include: a grade on a facility safety audit; a score for parent and community involvement; percentage compliance with special education requirements; and the number of parent surveys completed.

To see the school reports, visit www.philasd.org/offices/accountability, and click on “School annual reports.”