Michigan parents have long struggled to evaluate and compare public schools in a data-based way. More often than not, choosing a school or school district in which to live is often based largely on word-of-mouth and reputation. Until now, there hasn’t been a user-friendly tool that allows parents to see and consider all pertinent data such as classroom sizes, student-to-teacher ratios, and test scores and compare schools based on that data all in one place.
“It’s hard to compare,” says Wytrice Harris, a parent of two kids in the Detroit Public Schools Community District, who is also a local schools activist.
“It can even be dangerous to compare, because when you start comparing — and depending on what people are using those measurements for — it could mean the closure of a school based on a pretty minimal comparison.”
It’s the result of years of wrangling in Lansing — both on the State Board of Education and in the state Legislature — about the best way to improve transparency about school performance. Some groups advocated for a system that would assign an A-through-F grade for each individual school. The State Board of Education decided against that method, saying it could lead to unintended consequences.
“Arbitrary A-through-F grading and things like that…aren’t useful for anybody but lead to a lot of bad policy decisions,” said board member Casandra Ulbrich.
WDET’s Jake Neher and Michigan Public Radio’s Cheyna Roth talk about the new dashboard and the issue it seeks to address.
Click on the audio player above to hear that conversation.