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Measuring School Effectiveness

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The main subject  of the dissertation I wrote for my doctorate was “school effectiveness.” Choosing this subject was driven by a personal belief that the school contributes the most in the development of an individual. It is in school where an individual acquires and develops formally most of the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values they need and they ought to have.

I put emphasis on the word formally in the preceding paragraph for it could be argued that the home and the church contribute also to the formation of an individual.

It is true, but not all parents are trained educators. Teachers (presumably) are. And not all families are functional. The dysfunctional ones may not help in the proper development of an individual. A school (presumably also) is always functional. This is not saying that the home does not contribute to the development of an individual. It does, but not as comprehensively as the school could.

What about the Church?

An individual can not be forced to embrace religion. A lot of people do not have religion. And even those who profess to have religion can not be obliged to go to  church and attend masses (or church services) during days of spiritual obligations. Thus, religious institutions may not help (or may contribute just a little) in the development of an individual. On the other hand, a young person can not avoid going to school. No parents in their right mind would not want their children to get an education. For as long as the family can afford, children will be forced to attend school from basic to tertiary education. And even if a family may not have enough financial resources to access expensive private education, schools run (or subsidized) by the government may serve as alternative.

The school carries on its broad shoulders that task of ensuring that the students entrusted to them should acquire and develop the necessary knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that they ought to posses. The school, which is already acknowledged as the extension of the home, should even be ready to become a vehicle of the church in spreading the gospel… except of course in societies where religion is not part of their culture.

Thus, the school cannot afford to be mediocre. The schools, as expected, should always be a paragon of excellence.

But how do we measure excellence in schools?

Excellence is an abstract concept but can be empirically tested. Excellence of schools can be quantified through existing measures of school effectiveness.

Existing literatures suggest that to measure school effectiveness the performance or achievement of students should be taken into consideration.  Scheerens1 refers to school effectiveness as “the performance of the organizational unit called school. The performance of the school can be expressed as the output of the school, which in turn is measured in terms of the average achievement of the pupil at the end of the period of formal schooling.”

Student achievement in the basic skills is undoubtedly the most popular criterion for defining an effective school.  Sergiovani explains that an effective school is one whose students achieve well in the basic skills as measured by standard tests. Thus, schools take pride whenever their students top government exams – proficiency in certain subject areas for basic education students and board exams for college graduates.

But are the students’ grades or scores in standard tests and government examination a valid measurement of school effectiveness?

Sergiovanni’s model (and similar approaches in quantifying school effectiveness) is being criticized as unidimensional and insufficient. Critics are saying that focusing exclusively on academic achievement ignores the relationship between achieving effectiveness in academic outcomes and achieving effectiveness among other dimensions like citizenship training and development of self-esteem, independence training, and the development of self discipline.

Focusing too much on academic outcomes have made society too obsessed about grades.

Schools are believed to have purposes and goals other than teaching basic skills. Schools effectiveness, therefore, should not be measured only in terms of whether the graduates could read, write and compute and could get good grades and perform well in government examinations.

The effectiveness of schools should be measured in other dimensions as well. Measuring school effectiveness through Sergiovani’s model is taking a myopic view of the purposes  of education. It takes into consideration only the intellectual purpose of schooling, which, according to McNergney and Herbert3, include the teaching of basic cognitive skills, such as reading, writing, and mathematics and the transmission of specific knowledge. There are other purposes of education which they (McNergney and Herbert) identified – political, social and economic.

A comprehensive measurement of school effectiveness should attempt to quantify the performance of schools in all the areas aforementioned.

It is hard to refute that schools play a very important role in the development of the individual and in nation-building. Thus they cannot afford to disregard their political and social purposes.

Measuring effectiveness of school should not stop after their students graduate. How their students perform in the workplace and in society as they grow older should also be considered.

The school is the vehicle in the delivery of education and the quality of education the citizenry and their leaders receive through the educational system determines whether a nation is destined for greatness or remain in socio-economic stagnation.

It is believed that a nation is as good as its citizens. One measure then that could be used to establish the effectiveness of schools is to determine what kind of citizens (and members of society) do they produce.

Whatever the status of a country is at the moment, whether it is progressive and peaceful or not is what its citizens made it to be and how the citizens made a nation to be reflects the kind of education they received from the schools.

Measuring school effectiveness in this way, admittedly, is difficult. But even the simplest of minds can easily answer the following questions:

Which school is more effective? Is it the school that produced graduates who topped board examinations or the school that produced responsible, productive and conscientious citizens and leaders?

Which schools are effective? Those that produced topnotchers in standardized and board examinations or those that produced citizens and leaders who are contributing positively to the betterment of society, nation, and the world?


References:

  1. Scheerens, Jaap,  Effective Schooling:  Research,  Theory  and Practice.
  2. Sergiovanni, Thomas, The Principalship: A Reflective Practice Perspective.
  3. McNergney, Robert & Herbert, Joanne Foundations of Education: The Challenge of Professional Practice.

 

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