The Only Nationally Comparable School Quality Ratings Available Today

U.S. Patent 8,376,755 by NeighborhoodScout®

NeighborhoodScout® has developed the first ever nationally comparable school ratings.

The result? – school quality ratings that facilitate accurate comparison among schools, school districts, and neighborhoods - even between schools in different states – something never before possible.

It is well known that the quality of education provided by public schools varies greatly across the country. Still further, the quality of a child's education can vary significantly from school district to school district within a state and can even be widely varied between two different schools within the same school district.

But until NeighborhoodScout, there has been no way to compare the quality of schools in different states - even if the schools are only a few miles apart.

In an attempt to quantify student performance and to improve the performance of elementary and secondary schools across America, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was signed into law in January of 2002. The NCLB has earmarked billions of dollars that are directed to nationwide educational reform and improvement. Under NCLB each state receives federal dollars for its public and charter schools based on the performance of their schools. One of the main mechanisms for assessing performance is through testing and test scores. As a result, schools have begun placing far more of an emphasis on preparing students for these NCLB standardized tests.

While theoretically, the concept of a national NCLB standardized test should provide a milestone by which to compare the performance of all of the schools in the country relative to one another, the actual test is not truly standardized. This is because while the federal government passed down guidelines and standards for the creation of a testing mechanism, the states themselves were left to develop, implement and administer the actual NCLB tests. As a result, despite the federal guidelines and standards, there is still a wide variation in the difficulty and content of the actual tests that have been implemented from state to state. Therefore any school comparison system that employs strictly the NCLB results as a basis for comparison is likely skewed due to the widespread differences in the underlying tests.

Accordingly, there is a need for a method and system that provides normalization of the performance data for all of the various schools and school districts across the nation. Further, there is a need for a method and system that provides a meaningful basis for comparison of school performance on a national basis.

NeighborhoodScout has invented and patented a method and system to directly compare school districts and individual schools across state lines based on their reported NCLB test scores, even though the tests are entirely different in each state.

How is this possible? Let's explain.

Generally, the present invention operates on the basis that all students attending public elementary and secondary schools must take the NCLB offered within their state providing a publicly available data repository for student performance within each of those schools. While the NCLB test results can provide a meaningful comparison between any students and schools that were administered the same test, since the tests are different state-to-state, a comparison on this basis is generally inaccurate and unreliable. To normalize the NCLB test results based on the differences, the present invention employs an additional factor that is employed as a modifier of the NCLB test results.

In addition to the NCLB testing, a population of randomly selected students in each state also takes the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test. The NAEP test is the closest thing to a gold standard national test and it is administered in the same form to every student who takes the test. The difficulty in using this test as a basis for comparison on its own is that there are not enough students in any one school or school district that take the test to make it statistically significant for comparison within smaller populations. It is of note however that although the NAEP is the same in every location the results reported by the NAEP often differ significantly from the NCLB results for any given state.

For example, the average percentage of students who passed the NAEP in a recent year in Mississippi was 16% while in Massachusetts the pass rate was 45%, even though the test is the same. In contrast, Mississippi's recent NCLB testing scores show that nearly 75% of their students are proficient or advanced, making it look like Mississippi has an outstanding public school system. The reality however is that Mississippi's NCLB scores are high because their NCLB test is built to be easy.

As a result neither of the available tests provide an ideal set of data for the comparison of schools on a nationwide school-by-school or district-by-district basis. The NCLB is often skewed because of local test development bias and the NEAP is not administered on a widespread enough basis. In accordance with the present invention, a method and system has been developed to make each state's NCLB test scores for every school and school district comparable to other schools and school districts in different states.

In operation, the system takes the average percentage of students testing as proficient in reading and math on the NCLB state-specific test and subtracts the percentage of students in that state who passed the NAEP, either in total or for these specific subjects. This subtraction produces a gap value that is then subtracted from each school and school districts' NCLB proficiency percentages. Once the NCLB results are adjusted, the schools and the school districts nationwide are then ranked relative to one another. As a result, the method and system of the present invention provides a curve that brings all individual schools and every school district to a nationally comparable rating based on the NCLB testing results.