This op-ed was originally featured in The News Journal.
When my daughter was born, my wife and I somehow missed the memo that many early childhood centers have a year-long waiting list. Even as people working in the education sector, we were behind and needed to get up to speed quickly about which center to choose. During our search, the 5-star rating system Delaware uses for early learning programs provided an easy way to get a snapshot on school quality.
This is one of the reasons why, as the founder and executive director of DelawareCAN: The Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now, I was glad to see Gov. Carney and the Delaware Department of Education plan to create a transparent 5-star rating system for K-12 public schools. Although they are receiving pressure to reconsider from groups like Delaware’s teachers union, I urge them to stay the course in the state’s final Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. This will equip Delawareans with critical information on school quality.
Over the past few months, I have conducted workshops for parents on “assessing school quality.” During these workshops, I have watched most parents struggle to find and make sense of Delaware’s official school report card. That’s because Delaware’s school report card is buried on the state’s website and does not provide parents a summary school rating to help them understand how the various measures of school quality fit together.
If the state of Delaware thinks it is important enough to make it easier to find out “which state agency buys the most pizza” or “whether your favorite restaurant passed its last inspection,” it would make sense that Delawareans should have access to a transparent and clear school report card.
Contrary to the myths being shared about school report cards, I know the demand exists. Thousands of Delawareans responded to the Delaware Department of Education’s own survey in 2014 indicating that they want school performance ratings. DelawareCAN, along with a coalition of more than 24 community and business groups, also sent the Department a letter with recommendations for the state’s ESSA plan that called for a “single summary rating for schools and districts…in order to ensure clarity for parents and community members.”
Many of us are thrilled to see the governor and the Delaware Department of Education are committed to creating a star rating system for K-12 schools in its final draft ESSA plan. For the sake of parents and everyday Delawareans who want and need to understand how our schools are doing, I urge them to continue in this direction.