New York

A tour of schools data around the country – Baltimore, DC, and Chicago

Yesterday, LA, Denver, and Houston. Today, Baltimore, DC, Chicago. The tour continues…

First stop, Baltimore. Maryland School Assessment test results – proficiency levels only – are available in a giant PDF report. But the state DOE saves the day with a data navigator that lets you check off groups you’re interested in and view graphs of proficiency data based on your choices. Two screenshots should give you a sense of the range of data available here.

Screenshot of the Maryland Report Card data tool.
Screenshot of the Maryland Report Card data tool.
Screenshot of county-level demographic data.
Screenshot of county-level demographic data.

With a short hop to Washington, DC, I found lots of background information on the tests from the Office of Data & Accountability, but little information about how students did outside of a press release from Chancellor Rhee. If more detailed data is available, it’s hard to find.

Screenshot of DC testing information.
Screenshot of DC testing information.

Our last stop, Chicago has an extensive and easy-to-navigate Office of Research, Evaluation, and Accountability. Data is available going back to 2000 or earlier, query tools allow at least some types of comparison reports, an extensive list of program evaluation reports is posted, and one section even clearly explains how to request data or apply to conduct original research within the schools.

Screenshot of Chicago's QueryTool.
Screenshot of Chicago

Finally, check out Chicago’s Toolkit for exploring their Student Connection Survey results. Incredibly easy to use, it provides materials for helping the user go from analyzing data to acting on it to improve schools. A search tool allows you to find targeted interventions and strategies for specific groups of students with just a few clicks.

Screenshot of Chicago's student survey toolkit.
Screenshot of Chicago

Home again in New York with notes from the journey: our city is not alone in sharing most data as pre-packaged PDF files, and posting only proficiency level data is common, so although it took some doing, we’re lucky to have those scale scores to analyze. Will readers in other cities begin to push for the same? There’s more than one way to look at assessment data and everyone deserves the clearest picture possible.

A few places are experimenting with tools to help the public explore data, but most limit the types of comparisons you can make. Maryland and Chicago lead the pack (at least of the school systems compared here), providing innovative tools that foster a sense of openness and let users get at important questions.

Coming soon: What do users in these six localities think of the data available to them? (Send me your perspective:

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.