The MOST Responsible School Rating System? One that Comes with Clear Context & Explanation

This piece by Jon Valant of Brookings' Brown Center Chalkboard caught our eye.

We think the reasoning here -- that a thoughtful summative mark for a school, like an A-F grade or a 1-100 rating -- holds real merit. In our personal and professional lives, we see that a single rating can clarify understanding and the decision-making that results from that understanding.

Valant is certainly correct in writing that certain summative ratings are more effective than others, and that devising the right rating requires consideration of the political context and how readers apprehend these ratings. But we feel that there's a sorely missing element here: how the rating is communicated.

With tools like Spotlight's Video Reporting Technologywe can all but ensure that any viewer, from policymakers to parents, understand not just the "What" behind a rating but even the "So what?" -- the context that surrounds the data -- and even the "Now what" -- the actions that might be taken as a result. We describe the dynamic effected by "VRT" this way: Imagine if you could send out an army of counselors to sit down next to parents and others reading a summative school rating, explaining to them the substance and context surrounding the rating -- in their home language.

Valant suggests that a good summative rating is better than no summative rating, but also that no rating is better than a bad one. We'll take that a step further: a well-explained, good summative rating is the best of all.