Muriel Bowser

Yelp for School? DC Unveils Rating System for Public Schools

The more stars you see by a restaurant's name on Yelp, the better you expect your meal to be. When you visit a five-star hotel, you know it will have a nicer amenities. Now, D.C. is using a similar system to rate its public schools.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled the new DC School Report Card and STAR rating system on Friday, saying at a news conference they are "tools that our families can use as they make decisions about which school or schools are a best fit for their children."

STAR stands for School Transparency and Reporting and the city uses data about academic programs, extracurricular activities, parent organizations and more to rate the schools on a one- to five-star scale, with five stars being the best.

“As we roll out these new report cards, our plan is to engage with schools and families across the District, to support schools in developing improvement plans, and to use this information to inform our policies and investments,” Bowser said in a news release.

Ballou High School in Southeast received one star, while Woodrow Wilson High School received four stars, for example.

"For the lowest performing of schools, those schools in the bottom five percent, we are going to look at employing innovative practices and engaging in strategies that are transformative," Interim Chancellor of DCPS Amanda Alexander said.

However, critics of the new system say the stars are based too heavily on standardized test scores, which account for more than 70 percent of a school's rating.


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Critics also say the rating doesn't account for factors such as if a school has more students who speak English as a second language.

"Schools that have a lot of kids at proficient in September, they're gonna get four or five stars and those that didn't are gonna have one or two stars and that doesn't tell you how good the school is," said Ruth Wattenberg, Ward 3 member of the D.C. State Board of Education.

City officials say the report cards will help shape policy by giving District leaders and educators a common set of facts to compare and evaluate schools. Schools identified in the bottom five percent of the STAR Framework will be able to receive more than $1 million over three years to target core school improvements, according to the news release.

The new report cards and STAR ratings are housed on Families can access in both English and Spanish, and translated guides are available in Amharic, Chinese, French, Korean, and Vietnamese.

Families can learn more about the DC School Report Card and meet representatives from more than 200 public schools at EdFEST on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the DC Armory on East Capitol Street SE.

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