Measuring School Effectiveness
The main subject of the dissertation I wrote for my doctorate was “school effectiveness.” My choice of that subject was driven by a personal thesis 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.
Emphasis is put 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 a church and attend masses during days of spiritual obligations. Thus, religious institutions may not help (or may contribute just a little) in the development of an individual. Conversely, an individual can not avoid the school, for as long as the family can afford, a youngster will be forced to attend school for basic and tertiary education. And even if a family may not have enough financial resources, the public schools may serve as alternative for the education of the children.
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.
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. Sergiovanni defines an effective school as one whose students achieve well in the basic skills as measured by standard tests.
Student achievement in the basic skills is undoubtedly the most popular criterion for defining an effective school. Thus, many schools take pride whenever their students would top tests given by government agencies, particularly in the board exams. And given Sergiovanni’s definition of an effective school they would really have the right to proudly announce to the world how well their students are performing, and how effectively they are functioning as a school.
However, 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.
Schools are believed to have other purposes and goals other than teaching basic skills. Schools effectiveness should therefore be not measured only in terms of whether the graduates could read, write and compute, could get high and passing grades, and could perform well in government examinations.
The effectiveness of schools should indeed be measured in other dimensions. It cannot be denied that schools play a vital (if not the most vital) role in the development of the individual in particular and in nation-building in general.
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 doomed to the abyss of stagnation and oblivion.
It is believed that a nation is as good as its citizens. One measure then of 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 politically stable (or not), economically progressive (or not), and socially 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.
The foregoing may be difficult to quantify or test empirically. But even the simplest of minds can easily answer the following questions:
Which school is more effective? Is it the school who produced graduates who topped board examinations or the school who produced responsible, productive and conscientious citizens and leaders?
Which schools are effective? Those who produced topnotchers in standardized and board examinations or those who produced citizens and leaders who are contributing positively to the betterment of society, nation and the world?