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School Progress Reports released for Philly District

Reports include data for most charter schools.

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

The School District has released its School Progress Reports for 2013-14, which quantify a number of indicators to evaluate achievement, climate, and equity. The reports, which replaced the troubled School Performance Index, are in their second year.

The School Progress Reports put more weight on student growth than on absolute levels of achievement and factor in other school attributes. The School Performance Index scores relied more heavily on test scores and ran into problems when officials acknowledged that they were tainted by faulty data.

SPI reduced data to a single number for each school ranging from 1 to 10 and made crucial decisions based on them, including which schools should be closed or undergo a "turnaround," including conversion to a charter school.

Under SPR, schools still receive a single, overall score, but are also given separate ratings for achievement, progress, climate, and, for high schools, college-and-career readiness.

These indicators are weighted on a 100-point scale and combined to give the school’s overall score. For each indicator, and overall, the school is put into one of four tiers depending on its score: model, reinforce, watch, or intervene.

The system is explained in a user guide provided by the District.

Each school is ranked compared to all schools in its grade span — elementary, K-8, middle or high school — as well as to a peer group of demographically similar schools. (See interactive charts below.)

The SPR system is in its second year and is still being tweaked. Superintendent William Hite described it as "a work in progress."

This year, for the first time, it includes student and parent survey information as well as the expanded college-and-career-ready indicators. Another indicator measures the progress of a school’s lowest-performing 20 percent of students.

Compared to 2012-13, more District-run schools are in the bottom two tiers (watch and intervene) than are in the top two (model and reinforce). There are also fewer schools overall, a result of two dozen schools closing in 2013.

Just 3 percent, or six schools, are in the "model" tier, with 36, or 17 percent, in the next-highest "reinforce" tier. The "watch" schools number 88, or 41 percent, and there are 83 "intervene" schools, or 39 percent, in the lowest tier.

At the same time, 17 District schools, almost all of them neighborhood elementaries, moved to a higher SPR tier.

The District released also SPR scores for charter schools, but not all of them.

Charter schools had problems with SPI, but this year, nearly 75 percent — 62 of 84 — agreed to provide data for SPR calculations. Several charter schools were overall leaders in their peer groups, and two were citywide leaders. Folk Arts Cultural Treasures (FACTS) led K-8 schools, and Young Scholars led the much smaller group of middle schools.

Four Mastery charters led their peer groups — Hardy Williams, Thomas, and Cleveland among K-8 schools, and Mastery Charter at Shoemaker among high schools.

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