Once they had identified this group of schools, what should the researchers do? Should they gather the teachers and principals together to commend them for their achievements? Maybe give the students in the schools an opportunity to learn from each other in a collaborative setting? Certainly, we'd want to celebrate the achievements of these fine 30 institutions; we'd want to commend them, their students, their teachers, and their administrators for their commitment to excellence. That would be the rational, humane response, wouldn't it?
Which means, of course, it's not the response of the New Jersey Department of Education.
The NJDOE has decided, instead, that the best way to celebrate the high achievement of these 30 schools is to rank them against each other, and designate those in the lower part of the distribution as "lagging." Some schools will be "High Performance"; some will be "Significantly Lagging" - even if they are schools with students achieving at a high level.
Yes, that's right: a high performing school, under the new rules of the NJODE, can now be "Significantly Lagging." Welcome to our brave, new reformy world:
The reports create some seeming contradictions. A high school may hit 100 percent of stated targets — but be placed in the 44th percentile among its peers in area such as "Graduation and Post Secondary."
The idea, according to the state, is to encourage all schools to improve."Every school in New Jersey has some area that needs improvement," the state said in a document prepared to explain the new reports. "The performance reports ... will assist every school in taking the next step for improvement."
Now, the NJDOE thinks this is actually going to help schools. They think what these schools are missing is that extra little kick of competition to make them super-awesome-excellent. Here's the problem:
If "success" is how you do compared to your "peers," someone will always lose. Someone will always be at the bottom - even if they are doing a great job!
By this logic, Scotty Pippin was mediocre because he wasn't Michael Jordan. Buzz Aldrin is lame because he could have been Neil Armstrong. Oh, you got a 2350 on the SAT? You know there are lots of kids who got a 2400, don't you? Slacker...
This report card has many, many other flaws - I, and no doubt others, will get those soon enough. But the biggest mistake in this whole enterprise is the premise that it's based on: that a competition between "peer" schools is instructive. It isn't. It tells us nothing useful; there is nothing meaningful to act upon when a "report card" compares "peers" in this manner.
Why, then, is NJDOE doing this? What's the goal?
More here, you "losers"...