Parents got a helpful holiday present from the State Department of Education (SDE) this week! With little fanfare, the SDE rolled out the School Performance Index (SPI), which provides families with a snapshot of how their schools are performing. The SPI is a single number that encapsulates the overall achievement level of the entire school. Every school is awarded points based on its students’ standardized test scores– 100 points for every student scoring at Advanced or Goal levels, 67 points for Proficient scores, 33 points for Basic, and 0 points for Below Basic. Then, all of the points are added together and averaged to assign each school a single metric, the SPI.(In other words, if the majority of students score at Goal or Advanced levels, the SPI will be higher.) This new system of monitoring whole-school progress is part of Connecticut’s brand spanking new accountability system, which will help us tier schools within a framework of interventions. The SDE has promised, as part of its ESEA waiver, to try to start moving districts towards an 88 SPI score. And while there are some schools in Connecticut with high SPIs, there are far too many with SPIs in the 30s and 40s, which means that student achievement in those schools is far below proficiency.

What Does This All Mean for Parents?

This is the first time that the state is providing parents with a simple, overall insight into the academic performance of their children’s schools. Instead of giving parents a complicated scheme in which they can look at district aggregates, school aggregates, or individual grades (not to mention different performance levels within each of these scorecards)—the SPI is now saying, “Hey parents, we’re aiming for a score of 88. How close is your school?”For instance, imagine you’re a parent looking for a good place to enroll all of your kids. Which of these pieces of information is more helpful—at a glance—in determining whether your school is up to snuff?

Option 1: Using CMT results to make the call:

Whoa! Isn’t that too much information for certain purposes? We’ve got six grades to compare, with multiple subjects in each grade, and all of these different achievement levels to consider in each of the subjects, too! How do we even know where to set the bar when we’re deciding if this school meets our standards? What about this?

Option 2: Using SPI for the same school to make the call:

Well, that’s certainly easier on the eyes, isn’t it? Now don’t get us wrong: looking at granular details is an incredibly important part of the process of teasing out nuanced understandings as to what’s going on inside of each school or district. But it sure is nice to have an overall snapshot as an alternative! Know your score now by clicking here. If your SPI is less than 88, maybe it’s time for you to start advancing school reform programs in your community.