This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Last year, the School District of Philadelphia revealed that its system for rating schools was faulty and suspended the use of the “School Performance Index,” or SPI. But on Monday, the District will begin a process to develop a new school report card that will not only replace the SPI, but also the school annual reports. District leadership is asking the community to help them decide what will go in the school report card and how it will be designed, and will hold six community meetings to get the process underway.
The SPI was developed in 2009 under then-Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. Basically, it is a formula – very detailed and considered complicated by many — that breaks down more than a dozen indicators into a single score from 1 to 10, with 1 being the best. Every public school in the city, including charter schools, is assigned a score. Over the last couple of years, the scores have been used in guiding the District’s decisions about which schools to close and convert into charters, as well as to evaluate requests for charter renewals and expansions.
Some charter operators have criticized the use of SPI since the beginning, saying that the formula is untrustworthy. When a state-commissioned analysis of results from 2009 to 2011 revealed evidence of widespread cheating at dozens of schools throughout the state, including 53 District schools and three charters in Philadelphia, further suspicion grew among education advocates about the reliability of SPI. Concerns also mounted over whether the District was making major decisions about schools based on bad data.
Like SPI, the school annual reports provide a snapshot of a school’s performance, but use student, teacher, and school data pulled from various sources to create baseline data that is then used to set improvement goals for each school. Each year that data is compared to the previous year’s baseline to measure improvement.
Here is the schedule of the meetings:
- Mon., July 29, 5:30 p.m. – School District of Philadelphia Education Center, 440 N. Broad St., Room 1072
- Wed., July 31, 11 a.m. – McMichael School – West PFRC, 3543 Fairmount Ave.
- Fri., Aug. 2, 4:30 p.m. – Radio Salvation, 321 W. Sedgley Ave.
- Mon., Aug. 5, 10 a.m. – School District of Philadelphia Education Center, 440 N. Broad St., Room 1173
- Tues., Aug. 6, 10 a.m. – Houston Community Center, 8th Street & Snyder Avenue
- Wed., Aug. 7, 10 a.m. – Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, 1936 N. Judson St.
Alison McDowell, a parent of a child at Masterman who questions the impact the report cards might have, is encouraging parents to attend and has created a public Facebook event where people can sign up. After the meeting, people can join McDowell and other educators at Kelliann’s Bar & Grill around the corner on Spring Garden Street for some education networking.