Education, states team on school site

How do schools in Florida compare with those in Delaware in meeting the educational standards of the No Child Left Behind Act?

A consortium of federal, state and private groups is posting answers to such questions at www.schoolresults.org, a Web site funded by the Education Department and a nonprofit group to make school performance data readily available and schools more accountable.

The site gives easy access to education data and analysis. Users find a simple presentation of comprehensive data about schools, districts and states.

The School Information Partnership, composed of Education and state and private groups, created the clearinghouse site so parents, educators and policymakers can use the No Child Left Behind data to make informed decisions.

'The data will help advance a national debate about the performance of the U.S. educational system'it can no longer be hidden in the shadows,' Education secretary Rod Paige said in a statement after the site's recent launch.

Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington were the first states to feature their information on the site. Most states will have some information online by summer, said Susan Patrick, acting director of the Office of Educational Technology and Education's project manager for the site.

When a state comes online depends on its internal process to assure that data is accurate and complete, she said.

The data includes yearly progress in math and reading among all major groups of students.
A better-performers search tool identifies schools and districts that have made greater progress on a particular test with specified groups of students than have others with similar demographics, and cites reasons behind the success.

The site also helps focus resources so schools that need help get it.

The site makes information publicly accessible that was once available only to superintendents, school boards, state education departments or legislative committees.

'Data may have been accessible to the public on state Web sites, depending on whether states have an interface with the public to access how schools are doing. Most don't,' Patrick said.

Blazing example

For example, in the Orange County, Fla., school district, which includes Orlando, only about half of the 158,000 students have made adequate yearly progress in reading and math.

Links on the Orlando page include an analyzing tool that can compare the city with other state school districts. Tabs distribute the data by grade, and the page also has a link to Florida's education measurements down to individual schools.

'When you can be meeting the adequate yearly progress in 90 percent of the student population and missing it in 10 percent, it will show you exactly what the population is and the academic area by seeing it reported graphically and clearly. It's not just a compliance model but continuous progress model,' Patrick said.

Florida has seen a rise in student achievement, Florida Education commissioner Jim Horne said. 'We are using data to benchmark high-performing schools and arming educators with the tools they need to help students through individualized, data-driven instruction.'

The site will bolster that arsenal, he said.

Education has funded the site at $9 million for its first two years, when the majority of long-term costs for development will occur.

The site uses a Java-based internal language and stores data in an Oracle9i database. It was developed by Standard & Poor's of New York.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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