The Integrated Schools Podcast

The Impacts of Testing Our Kids and Ranking Our Schools (Part 1)

Episode Summary

The first of a two-part series looking at how we assess school quality, and how that impacts our decisions around where to live and where to send our kids to school. How we define “good” and “bad” schools is a huge part of the smog we often talk about at Integrated Schools - and these two episodes get into the problems with the data we’re using, and the implications of that on the larger education system, and society as a whole.

Episode Notes

In the first of two parts looking at how we measure and communicate school quality, and how that impacts our educational system, we’re joined by Professor Jack Schneider. He has been thinking about school ratings, and school quality for many years. He started the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Educational Assessment, a coalition of school and district leaders working to reimagine school assessment and accountability by including multiple measures of student engagement, student achievement, and school environment, and emphasizing performance assessments in the classroom to measure students' deeper mastery of content and skills.

We dig into what we are measuring, and, perhaps more importantly, what we aren’t. We also discuss the tension between a real need for transparent accountability, and the issues with the metrics we are currently using.

Join our Patreon to support this work, and connect with us and other listeners to discuss these issues even further.

LINKS:

The Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Educational Assessment

Professor Schneider’s 2017 book - Beyond Test Scores

Professor Schneider’ podcast - Have You Heard

Pre-order Professor Schneider’s new book - A Wolf at The Schoolhouse Door

A primer on No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

Professor Wayne Au on the links between testing and white supremacy

Remember, any book bought through a link here or by starting at our affiliate page on IndieBound supports local bookstores, and Integrated Schools. 
 

Let us know what you think of this episode, suggest future topics, or share your story with us - @integratedschls on twitter, IntegratedSchools on Facebook, or email us hello@integratedschools.org.

The Integrated Schools Podcast is produced by Courtney Mykytyn and Andrew Lefkowits.

Audio editing and mixing by Andrew Lefkowits.

Music by Kevin Casey.

Episode Transcription

Andrew: Welcome to the integrated schools podcast. I'm Andrew, a white dad from Denver, and this is “The Impact of Testing Our Kids and Ranking our Schools.” This is the last of the unreleased interviews I did with my late cohost Courtney before she died, and it's also the first of a two part series looking at how we assess school quality and how that impacts our decisions around where to live and where to send our kids to school. How we define good and bad schools is a huge part of the smog we often talk about at Integrated Schools and these two episodes try to get into the problems with the data we're using and the implications of that on both the larger education system and society as a whole. But before we jump in, I think it's worth taking just a minute for some background.

So, back in 2002 the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was reauthorized through a bipartisan bill known as the No Child Left Behind Act, or NCLB. Among other things, this bill conditioned federal funding on States developing and then implementing standardized testing for all kids in both math and reading, every year from grades three through eight, and once in high school. It also tied high stakes to the results of these tests. So schools that were not showing improvement on their scores, had to allow students to transfer to other schools and eventually could be shut down or replaced by charter schools.

Now the problems that NCLB was attempting to address were real, not only were business groups concerned about overall American competitiveness, but civil rights groups were concerned that students of color were not receiving the same quality instruction, but they had limited data to prove that. So the law passed and it unleashed a trove of data about average test scores at schools. And while this transparency did in fact highlight some of the disparities in outcomes in our education system, it also had profound impacts on how schools are run and how they are perceived.

So we're going to dig into that a bit over the next two episodes and next week we'll talk with Matt Barnum, a reporter from Chalkbeat, about the ways that that data gets used, particularly by aggregators like GreatSchools.org, and how that can have an effect on the choices that we make. Today though, our guest is Jack Schneider. He's an education historian and has been thinking about how we measure school quality for a long time. In his 2017 book Beyond Test Scores: A Better Way to Measure School Quality, he argues that test scores alone are a poor way to measure school performance, and that as a country we really need a new framework to assess educational effectiveness. He started the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Educational Assessment, which is working to develop that new framework with eight school districts in Massachusetts. He highlights some of the many issues that come from single measure, high stakes accountability tools. So, let's hear the conversation.

------------------------------------------

Dr. Jack Schneider: I'm Jack Schneider and I'm an assistant professor of education at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. I am also the director of research for the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment, and I am the father of a public school student.

Courtney: Nice. Welcome.

Dr. Jack Schneider: Thanks.

Courtney: Maybe we can start off today with the question of how you came to care about this work? How did you come to this kind of research on school rankings and school ratings?

Dr. Jack Schneider: The short version of it is that I live in a crazy world where we essentially rank order schools by wealth and pretend that we are talking about quality, and that one day it happened to offend my sensibilities enough that I began tweeting irate messages at The Boston Globe about it, and that they had enough savvy to respond to me and say, “Professor Schneider, please calm down, would you like to work with us?” And that began a several year odyssey of thinking about the data that are available about schools, which are totally inadequate, and so that eventually led to a project where we tried to take the very first step, the step that we have skipped as a society, and that's to actually figure out what we care about, actually talk about what a good school is and then, identify measures that might be useful. And how do we present data so that people actually spend time looking at all of these various dimensions of school quality, rather than just engaging with a data system the way they might with a Yelp score and saying, well this school gets a seven, some other school gets an eight, I'm out of here. And it's a hugely complicated venture. I think the positive way of describing it is that there is never a day when we don't have things to think about.

Andrew: Nice

Courtney: So can we kind of set up a national overview, you know, what is it that we're talking about when we're talking about school ratings?

Dr. Jack Schneider: Sure, so there are several places where people go for their school quality information. You know, one is to their friends and neighbors, and that is historically a sort of black box you know we don't really know what happens there. It's hard to know in any sort of systematic way, but there's a lot of research that suggests that there are status ideologies that are mediating those conversations. So, who sends their kids there or what they've heard or the “type of people” who send their kids there. People have for the past few generations viewed schools as mechanisms for getting ahead, and as long as that's the case they are going to look for information that tips them off as to where their kids will get an advantage. So, there's that source, the word of mouth that happens.

And then there are state data systems. So, (in) 2002 when NCLB is signed into law, we get disaggregated data for every public school serving students in grades 3 through 12 and people begin looking at those data systems. Although far fewer people are visiting these state websites than they are visiting a third set which would be the websites of places like GreatSchools.org. So GreatSchools claims to be the number one outlet for information about school quality. They serve, you know, untold millions. They make claims about usage on their website and those to me are the most troubling because they are making decisions that they are in no way accountable for, and they are interested in people using information to shop for schools, to treat schools like commodities that you can shop for just the same way that we shop for groceries or shop for clothing and their theory of change is that shopping will improve schools and I think there's a lot of evidence that indicates that it's actually the opposite and that this approach undermines the longstanding quest for integrated schools. So I would say that those are the three major ways that people are getting their information about school quality and of course there is an interplay across all three where GreatSchools is getting its data from these state websites, repackaging it, and where many of the conversations that people are having with their friends and neighbors, are being informed by the information that they have gleaned from either the state data systems or from systems like GreatSchools.org.

Courtney: Yeah

Andrew: So talking to friends, neighbors, Facebook, whatever, state data systems. And then probably more likely if we're actually looking at data, we're getting it from some third party aggregator of data, like GreatSchools.org and I guess that sort of begs the question like, what are the data that these systems are based off of?

Dr. Jack Schneider: So, a typical rating formula will include students' standardized test scores in two different forms. One would be proficiency rates, so these are just the scores that students got on the test that are then set against some criterion. So, you've got to get let's say 160 out of 200 to be designated proficient. So we're looking at what percent of students in this school scored proficient on the state standardized test.

Andrew: And these proficiency scores are, are problematic, particularly if we're interested in like what the school is actually doing for the kids, right? So can you tell us what the problems are with proficiency scores?

Dr. Jack Schneider: Yeah. So, if you just look at student proficiency scores, you are likely to learn more about out of school conditions then you are about the school's quality and if you look at the correlations between various demographic variables and proficiency rates you'll see that white students, higher income students, students whose parents have college degrees, basically every measure of privilege in our society, correlates with higher standardized test scores.

Andrew: So the more privilege you show up with, the more likely you are to score higher on a standardized test regardless of what the school is actually doing.

Dr. Jack Schneider: Yeah. So take two kids who have gone to the same school. The school is the same, the kids come from different levels of advantage or disadvantage, and statistically we can say well one student is more likely to score higher than the other and that this is not a product of the school, this is a product of the kinds of privilege that some kids in our society have and others do not.

Andrew: But proficiency scores are not the only way we use that test score data, right?

Dr. Jack Schneider: The second format for standardized test scores is growth scores. Which is at least a fairer way of doing it. So growth scores attempt to account for the correlations often by grouping kids with similar prior testing histories and then looking at how they compare against each other.

Andrew: So taking these same state tests that everybody's taking and then trying to take that data and tease out, what did the school actually do over the course of the year to help the kids grow regardless of where they showed up. Is there anything else that finds its way into these ratings?

Dr. Jack Schneider: At the high school level you'll get graduation rates. Increasingly, at both the elementary and the high school level you'll get attendance rates. And then you begin to get some additional nods to diversity of measurement. But oftentimes they sound more different than they actually are. So you'll see something about college and career readiness, which turns out to just be test scores again, or college and career readiness could also just be graduation rates repackaged. So really we're talking about a pretty narrow set of measures that do not align or at least don't perfectly align, I would say don't come anywhere close to aligning, with the many things that we want for our schools, either in terms of outcomes or processes.

Andrew: So the things that these data aggregators that the state data systems are based on are really like a narrow sliver of what the school is, in theory, doing for kids. And maybe not even the things that we care the most about.

Dr. Jack Schneider: Yeah, you know I'm a parent, and what do I care most about? I care a lot about the degree to which all those kids in the school are engaged in what they're learning. Are they being challenged? Do their teachers respect them? Do they feel like they have strong relationships with their teachers? You know, I could go on and none of this is presently measured in the vast majority of cases whether we're talking about official state data systems or if we're talking about these third party providers.

Courtney: So why are we not measuring those things? I think at some level it's really hard to think about assigning a numerical value to: How happy you are in this school? How safe do you feel? How much do you feel supported by your classmates, teachers and the staff? But why aren't those being measured?

Dr. Jack Schneider: Yeah, it's you know that's a complicated question but it’s really about measurement and our orientation towards “hard measurement” where the view is that, if you ask somebody a question and they give you an answer that that somehow is not objective, right? That that is not something that we can rely upon. There's just more skepticism towards soft measurement, or squishy measurement, whatever you want to call it and I frankly think that the people who know school quality the best are the people who spend 180 days inside the building and that it's criminal to not ask students and teachers what's going on inside their schools and if we are going to have accountability that the information that they can share with us absolutely should be a part of that.

Andrew: Yeah. It seems like the, the testing that NCLB mandated was really designed to measure if the schools were doing a good job and maybe not designed so much as a, as a tool to communicate quality to families. And I, I wonder if there's some sort of tension there.

Dr. Jack Schneider: Yeah, I think that there absolutely is a conflict, just in the sense that people are seeking to engage in different tasks. But I actually don't see any reason to have different measures because ultimately any accountability system should be designed to serve the people who are using those schools as well as the wider community that is going to benefit from having educated young people. And therefore, I think that even though people are playing different roles, that accountability systems ought to be measuring the things that parents and community members care about. That ultimately the schools are not serving the state. That is a more controversial statement than I would like it to be, in the same way that I would say the schools are actually not serving the economy, that that is that is not the purpose of the schools. Certainly the state has oversight over the schools, it has constitutional responsibility. Certainly schools do end up producing greater economic productivity but that's not why we send young people to school grades K through 12. That's not what we pay for it as a society. That's not why I'm paying for it when I pay my tax dollars. I'm really excited to pay my taxes when I think about the returns to my community. When I think about all of the different kinds of young people who are in our schools. I think about kids who have just come to this country, maybe not speaking English. I think about kids from high poverty households. I think about kids like my own daughter from a thoroughly middle-class, English speaking, college educated household and how they're all going to school together. I get excited about thinking about what these young people are going to contribute to my community, and I'm not thinking about the kinds of jobs that they're going to have. I'm thinking about who they're going to be and how they're going to treat each other, and if that's the piece that we really care about, and I think we need to have a national conversation about this, but if that's what we care about then I think the things we're measuring are, are somewhat ludicrous.

Courtney: Yeah. So, you know, I'm thinking back to these rankings and testing and NCLB and, I know that, I know that I don't know very much, but I know that there's a good piece of this that was really centered in Black and Brown education advocates really pushing for data to be able to prove that their children weren't being served the way white and wealthy kids were being served.

Dr. Jack Schneider: Yeah. So NCLB and the approach to curricular standards and accountability testing that had been emerging in a couple of decades prior to NCLB, was a response to a real problem, and I don't think that if we were to go into a time machine and bring that world back with us to the present that we would be particularly happy with It. Inequity is something that has long plagued our schools and disaggregating test scores and other metrics not just by grade level but by demographic subgroup, I think is really important. I am absolutely in favor of transparency. I think the two biggest problems are that we are measuring very narrowly, which has all sorts of consequences, and we are attaching very high stakes to these measures and when people are looking at how schools are “doing” they're making decisions about where to send their kids and where to move and that all of this has great potential to either ameliorate or exacerbate segregation. And so I would not favor an elimination of our attempt to measure school quality. I think it's really important. I think it's really important for community members who don't know what's going on inside the schools but really care. I think that parents want information about schools and they don't simply want it so that they can choose a school, they want that information so that they can know what's going on at the school that their kids are already at. And again, I think our data systems fail because parents don't really know, well, how is the school aligning with the things that I really care about and the experiences that my child is having? And more importantly what can I do about it? So I think we have a long way to go with regard to measurement and accountability And I think that anybody who supports the idea of equal opportunity for young people has to be oriented towards some form of measurement and absolutely transparency and probably some form of accountability, although I would say that automatic accountability that is determined by algorithm, without particular concern for the kinds of local contexts that shape school performance, I think that's that's very problematic and irresponsible. And I think that true accountability would bring local stakeholders, parents, community members, other forms of community expertise, to schools to not just look at data and hopefully a more holistic more comprehensive data but also to have real conversations.

Andrew: Yeah. So there's the what we're measuring, and we're maybe not measuring it particularly well, and we're not measuring enough things, or the things that actually matter to people. And then there's the stakes that are attached to it. Can you talk a little bit about what the impact of those high stakes are? You know, we want schools to be accountable for teaching kids, not just rich, white kids but actually teaching all kids. We don't want schools to be able to fail kids in perpetuity. So we need to have some sort of accountability to it. But it feels like to me at least, that the way that we are currently doing accountability is actually working counter to some of those objectives.

Dr. Jack Schneider: Yeah, absolutely. So you know if we just think how schools and school leaders will respond rationally to these systems, they will rationally respond by narrowing the curriculum. If we are only measured on our ELA and math scores grades three through eight and one year of high school...

Courtney: ELA is English language arts.

Dr. Jack Schneider: Yep. Then the first thing that I'm going to do is reduce instruction in science and social studies.

Andrew: Forget about music and art or...

Dr. Jack Schneider: Oh absolutely.

Andrew: Or PE or any of those other things right?

Dr. Jack Schneider: Yeah, I am going to cut recess. You know, I love my daughter's school and I believe in the educators there, I believe in the leaders in this district, and in that school but, you know, she gets I think 15 minutes to eat her lunch and 15 minutes to play. That's her day. So, I think back on my own experience and why I went to school willingly as a child, and in some cases excitedly, and it was to see my friends and to play.

Courtney: To play tag. Yeah.

Dr. Jack Schneider: Right. Sometimes to have lunch, and in later years to play sports. And I think that that stuff matters tremendously. Not just because it gets kids willingly coming to school and feeling maybe good about the process but because those things matter also. Because learning interpersonal skills is not something that results from curriculum. It's something that results from actual interaction. That learning the kinds of skills that you learn on the playground, or in music class, or in clubs, or on athletic fields, that those are really important. And I understand that there is competition for time, for very limited time in the school day, but I also know that we would not be making the kinds of strategic decisions that we are making with regard to how students spend their time if it weren't for the fact that schools are held accountable for only a few of those things. If they were held accountable for all of the things we want schools to do it would be much harder to game those systems.

Andrew: So the fact that we are measuring a really narrow piece of what we say we want from schools, and then the stakes are really high in terms of how we hold schools accountable, is pushing school leaders and teachers to do things that are maybe actually counter to what we would actually want from them?

Dr. Jack Schneider: Yeah. So in the same way that a rational school leader will cut things like art and music and social studies and science, a rational teacher will orient instruction towards whatever is on the test. And so you get kids coming home in third grade, the first tested year, saying I don't like school anymore. You can begin to see student engagement decreasing the very first year of preparation for standardized testing and it's an absolutely rational response. And again, I think that there's a careful balance here because I do not want every school to have complete freedom with regard to what is taught and what goes on in the school day, but I think that there is a balance between having the autonomy to do what's right for young people, particularly in the context of a particular community, and having some guidance, some sort of framework with regard to the things that we all agree should be happening in all schools.

Courtney: Is there any data or research around how many schools are teaching to the test? And you know my guess would be that it's largely schools serving predominantly Black and or Brown kids, so those populations of students have even less access to science and social studies because at a whiter, wealthier school the worry over your test scores is reduced? So you might have more time for music and art?

Dr. Jack Schneider: So, I think what the evidence broadly suggests is that schools that are above a certain threshold experience less pressure to engage in these kinds of behaviors. But at the same time I would say that it's important to remember that this is not simply a phenomenon that affects less privileged students. In many cases very high income school districts or schools with very privileged student bodies will also experience very negative unintended consequences as a result of our measurement and accountability systems. So if we think about the kinds of pressures that privileged parents are able to bring to bear on a school leader or on a district superintendent and if we then think about the kinds of ratings that these parents are looking at and the metrics that feed into those readings, it's quite possible to imagine school leaders or district leaders responding to that pressure by saying, well, if the parents are insistent on us being the top rated school or district, then we'll do what we have to do to get those scores.

Andrew: Yeah. There's the piece of the impact of our accountability system on how school leaders and teachers and administrators are acting within the school system and the changes that they are implementing. I wonder if you can talk a little bit about how parents are using these ratings and some of the unintended consequences of that, particularly around things like segregated schools and, and the ways that school choice contributes to allowing those with privilege to use whatever information is available to them to further concentrate privilege.

Dr. Jack Schneider: Yeah. So you know I think first and foremost it's important to note that you know we're largely talking about a pretty select group of parents who are using these data systems to inform their choices. So we're talking largely about middle-class and affluent families predominantly white though certainly not exclusively, predominantly college educated, and they first engage in school shopping, they will talk with other people, but they will also go online. And for many of them it literally starts with a search engine and there are websites that will give them rank ordered lists. And worse, there are real estate tools; Trulia, Zillow, I think Redfin does this as well, that will tie in to GreatSchools.org and that will allow you to filter your housing search by GreatSchools.org rating.

Courtney: Yup.

Dr. Jack Schneider: And so what I see here is a legal gray area where I think if we were to file a lawsuit against GreatSchools.org we would lose. I explored this actually with a civil rights lawyer who said probably it's not worth bringing the case because we'll lose. But there is a kind of plausible case here with regard to racial steering, because if you say that student standardized test scores tend to reflect race, family income, parental educational attainment, other demographic variables, that those are going to be the primary metric for our GreatSchools.org ratings which are 1 to 10 ratings, and then we are going to use those 1 to 10 ratings, to allow people to filter their real estate searches. Gosh, that seems really problematic to me. And again it's not these websites alone, It's also word of mouth, which is very problematic. And I've had a number of interactions where people will come up to me after I give a talk about this and they'll say, ‘Oh my God, this is totally my experience and we're actually very unhappy with where we live, you know we don't like that we are in a kind of all white town or neighborhood, that the school is predominantly white. The school, by the way, isn't blowing us away, we're not like wildly impressed with what's going on there.’ So it's not that we are steering some people towards the good schools, I mean that would be a problem right? If we were steering some people towards the good schools, and segregating our schools, but everybody's being poorly served by this.

Courtney: Right.

Andrew: You know I think there's there's value in white people and wealthier people advocating for better and more inclusive metrics for, you know, avoiding things like rolling scores into a single score to try to take some of the high stakes things out of it. You know, accounting for broader measures of what we actually want out of a school. When it comes to the choices that we're making for our own kids, you know, knowing that we currently don't have great information, knowing that what the information we do have is telling us a lot about the average demographics of a school and not about what our particular kid may or may not get out of that school... Our listeners tend to be privileged white parents. What is the thought process behind making a choice? Because if you are still out there looking for the best school for your own kid and you bring privilege with you, there's a cost to that, to the system.

Jack Schneider: Yeah I think about that in two ways. First, I think about what actually is best for my kid. Because when I think about the life that I want my daughter to have, it is not about status. I am not happy because of status or access to resources beyond what I need to pay my mortgage and to feed my family. But I think about these things that I learned from going to a diverse elementary school for instance, I think about how comfortable I feel with different kinds of people. I think about how much value music and art bring to my life, how much value sport brings to my life. I mean, these are the sorts of things where if we think about what really brings us joy and what we want for our own kids. You know sending your kid to an elite private school really may not target those things. And in fact may actually undermine those kinds of aims.

But then there's a whole other way of approaching it and that's to think not just about your own kid. You know, we are members of a society and of lots of different communities and I think that it's important to think about the obligation that we have to each other. You know, what is the larger impact of sending your kid to one school or the other particularly when we're talking about decisions which made an aggregate, can have a very powerful impact on a school community. I do not believe that white people coming to a school make that school better, but I do believe that many schools are segregated to their detriment. And I think that schools like that would be much stronger if all different kinds of Americans attended them. Just like I think that schools in privileged suburban communities or privileged urban communities for that matter, where the student body is similarly non-reflective of America, I think those schools would benefit from having different kinds of students there. I think everybody would benefit, not just the individual students there but the communities as well.

I feel that it's a really important decision in terms of where you send your kid to school. And so I think that recognizing how scary this is and that it can be paralyzing to think about sending your kid to a school where you may not be certain of the quality, to then recognize like maybe I just need to pin that feeling for a minute, and actually go and see with my eyes and have some conversations. It gets a lot less scary. You realize that most schools are pretty inspiring places. You realize that most kids are just that, they're kids and they're mostly kind to each other. And most of the adults are really caring. You know maybe I've just been to the wrong group of you know, 200 schools that I've visited in my lifetime or however many it's been, and I just happened to be in all the ones where everybody is, you know, decent to each other and where learning is taking place. But I don't think the odds of my having randomly picked a bunch of good schools are really good. I think it's that those are actually truly random schools and that when we spend a little bit of time in them we realize that these are the best places in our society. That despite all of what we've done to place pressure on these institutions to stop doing the great work that they do, despite all the negative rhetoric about our public schools and our teachers I think that these are the most inspiring places that we can go. And heck even if you're not trying to find a place to send your kid, you know, find an excuse to go to a school in your community and see what life is like there and how the adults in the building treat each other and treat the kids there and how the kids treat each other. It just, it's always the best part of my day when I go to a school and when I then begin to talk through that I remember that. And suddenly I think you know if my daughter went to a different school that would be fine, too.

Andrew: Wow. We're really grateful for you coming on and sharing all your expertise with us, Dr. Schneider.

Dr. Jack Schneider: Sure!

------------------------------------------

Andrew: Big thanks to Dr. Schneider for coming on and sharing. You know, Courtney and I talked quite a bit about this interview after it was over, and I so wish she was here for this, but I will do my best to try to capture some of what we grappled with. First of all, you know, I think many of the issues with how we measure school quality seem to be like impact versus intent on a systems level. The intent behind NCLB was in many ways admirable. It was an attempt to recognize and then address inequities. There was an attempt to make the system work for all kids rather than just those with privileges. However, the impact has really failed to live up to that intent. We've become less competitive internationally, recognizing that there are all sorts of issues with how we measure that, and the disparate academic outcomes we see based on race or socioeconomic status haven't improved meaningfully.

Additionally, the high stakes accountability tied to test scores has resulted in a narrowing of curriculum and frequent closing of schools, and often those schools that are serving predominantly Black and Brown students. And it seems to me, that a lot of this is just tied to the fundamental nature of standardized tests.

There's a professor at The University of Washington named Wayne Au, and he writes, “It's important to recognize that high stakes tests are not race neutral tools capable of promoting racial equity. At their origins, more than a hundred years ago, standardized tests were used as weapons against communities of color, immigrants, and the poor. Because they were presumed to be objective, test results were used to “prove” that whites, the rich, and us born were biologically more intelligent. In turn, the test provided backing to early concepts of aptitude and IQ, which were then used to justify the race, class, and cultural inequities at the time.”

And look, there's no question that these tests have changed in many ways over the past hundred years. But you know, when they continue to show whiter and wealthier kids to be “smarter,” I think we have to ask why we continue to be so comfortable relying on them. You know, Professor Schneider attributes at least some of our comfort with and reliance on these tests to just our innate preference for empirical data, our inherent distrust of qualitative measures. And there's no doubt that that's true. But you know, in addition to that, I think there's no denying that the origins of standardized testing were based in eugenics, and at the time were used as ostensibly objective evidence that our society should be organized into racial castes, and I guess I just wonder how far we really come from that basic premise.

Additionally, I find Dr. Schneider's love of all schools to be really inspiring and compelling, but after the interview, Courtney and I really struggled a bit to, to reconcile that feeling with the knowledge that there are some schools that are failing, particularly for kids of color. And you know, so while I think how we measure school quality is deeply flawed, I recognize that there is in fact a spectrum of quality among schools, right? And, while I believe that my children will be fine in any school, that, you know, possible differences in quality will have relatively small impacts on them, I also recognize that that's largely a result of the cushion of privilege that surrounds them.

And I think that in some ways changes my obligations when thinking about how I as a privileged person, as a white person, interact with these school accountability systems. You know, so while it's true that some schools are better on some measures than others, when I think about the impact of my choice, when I think about the ways that my choices can either exacerbate or ameliorate the concentrations of privilege and vulnerability we see in our school system, I really struggle with the very idea of using data to find the “best” school for my kids. You know, as Courtney wrote in some notes for this episode, “what should parents who care about integration be looking for? I mean, for me, it's kids in a building who don't look like mine. Teacher turnover, par for the course in Black and Brown schools, chess club, field trips, et cetera, not always going to happen.” And so for me, I just have a hard time imagining a system of school rankings, even one that includes much broader and more meaningful metrics, that doesn't in some way contribute to opportunity hoarding and segregation. And I guess maybe the only way we push back against that is if the people who are making use of the system both come to terms with the ways in which privilege really mitigates the impacts of those rankings, but also that we act, fully aware of the broader impact that our choices have, not only on the educational system itself, but really on our society as a whole.

We'll dig into some of those broader impacts next time with Matt Barnum from Chalkbeat. In the meantime, if you'd like to discuss further or you just want to support this all volunteer effort, head over to our Patreon, patreon.com/integratedschools, chip in whatever you can. Also, be sure to check out Professor Schneider's podcast. It's called, “Have You Heard?” You can find it wherever you get podcasts. He's got a great co-host, Jennifer Berkshire, and the two of them actually have a book coming out later this year that's available for a preorder now called A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door.

And speaking of buying books, we're thrilled to announce that we are now affiliates with Indie Bound. They are a site that connects you to local independent booksellers. We have a link in the show notes. If you use that link, not only can you support local bookstores, but a portion of the proceeds will also come back to Integrated Schools.

If you enjoy the episode, leave us a rating or review. Be sure to share it with your friends. Even if you didn't enjoy it, send us an email, let us know, hello at integrated schools dot org and be sure to check us out on social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @integratedschools. As always, I'm grateful to be in this with you as we try to know better and do better. See you next time.