I have long been a fan of Alan Borsuk, the Education reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and a senior fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School. His articles are balanced, thorough and always thought-provoking. His most recent article dated August 10, 2013, You need to sense a school’s “muscle, music”, articulates what I and many of my educational colleagues have long promoted: determining a school’s quality using only quantitative measures is flawed and ignores the essence of education. You can read the article here: http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/you-need-to-sense-a-schools-muscle-music-b9972225z1-219136881.html
Mr. Borsuk describes some of those qualitative attributes of a good school. For muscle, he states that a school should be well-run with a great principal, having a program that is “challenging, built on high expectations.” That everyone associated with the school understands their role and has a sense of being supported and that there is effective communication. All of which are concrete, observable attributes that don’t really show up in test scores.
For music, Mr. Borsuk describes good schools as “happy, positive, warm places.” Learning communities that breed optimism. Places where both academic success and character building are goals. The ultimate measure he uses is that an adult will look back at the school and say “I grew there.”
Neither Mr. Borsuk, not I nor my colleagues want to ignore quantitative measures. Test scores and graduation rates, etc. have a place in the overall evaluation of quality. It’s just that good schools are so much more than a set of statistics.