More than a dozen states will assign A-F letter grades to schools by 2015 according to a media release describing this database published by the Education Commission of the States (ECS). The online database shows which indicators states are considering in gauging school performance and how state leaders are publicly reporting on that performance to parents and others. Letter grades for schools, which have been controversial in some states, appear to be an increasingly popular tool for policymakers. in 2002, only one state--Florida--assigned letter grades to schools, says ECS. Among some of the highlights of the ECS analysis: 14 states assign, or plan to assign, letter grades for schools; 37 states and the District of Columbia factor in student growth or improvement on tests in deciding school performance; 9 states weigh growth of the lowest-performing quartile of students in judging their schools.
This database provides a valuable resource in that it includes information on how states collect data on and report out on school accountability. The database includes high level overviews of State School Accountability Report Cards, and then drills deeper into their rating systems, the components that are measured and reported, associated state statutes, and summaries and full formulas for calculating final scores. In most cases, the wording is pulled directly from the states' websites, approved ESEA waivers, and other official documentation. This is helpful in some cases, but the user will find it difficult to compare information across states. There is little interpretation made by the ECS, and when it is, it may not be noted (e.g., in consolodating metrics within a state). This information is also quickly changing as states' accountability systems continue to evolve, and the database soon be out of date.