iStock_000021421106-webThe Learning Bar specializes in school surveys as well as the scientific analysis and interpretation of the data extracted from these surveys.

We provide many unique features with the OurSCHOOL (formerly Tell Them From Me) evaluation system, including the ability to compare your results against other relevant items. For instance, you can compare your results to a national norm, a replica school, against previous years, and more.

Measures of school performance such as achievement test scores or school completion rates typically derive their meaning in one of three ways:

1) by comparing a school’s results to a standard, such as the state average;
2) by comparing schools’ results to the results of other schools; and
3) by tracking schools’ performance over time.

The interactive reports for the OurSCHOOL student surveys uses all three approaches to afford meaning to its measures of engagement, wellness, and classroom and school climate. For example, the results for a measure can be compared to the median score for all middle schools or all secondary schools in the OurSCHOOL national database. The national median or average score is usually referred to as the norm. The norm is a useful benchmark; however, one should ask whether the national norm is the right standard to strive for. For example, if 10% of a school’s students report being frequently bullied, while the national average is 12%, should one be satisfied with the level of bullying in the school. A school can use information about the national norm to establish its own standards.

iStock_000006137399SmallIn some states, average test scores are reported publicly in ‘league tables’ that rank schools on their performance without any consideration of the ability or family background of students attending the school. Also, for many schooling measures, the average scores of most schools fall in a narrow range in the middle of the distribution such that even a small change in a school’s performance can dramatically affect its rank order. Thus, unadjusted comparisons of schools tend to be misleading and unfair to teachers and school administrators. We view the ranking of schools unfavorably because it is a process that fosters competition rather than discussions of how to best improve student outcomes.

Instead of ranking schools, the OurSCHOOL scores for each school are compared to a replica school. As soon as a student completes the survey, the score of a replica student is estimated from the national database by averaging the scores on the measure for all other students that have the same sex, grade level, parental education, family structure, and level of educational possessions at home. If 600 students in a school completed the questions for a measure, then the schools’ average score of that measure is compared to the average score for the 600 replica students. This provides a fairer comparison as it takes account of the composition of the school.

Tracking changes in school performance provide a way to gauge the effects of school reform efforts that are aimed at improving student outcomes. Depending on the schedule used in a school to complete the surveys, the OurSCHOOL reports can show changes from the beginning to the end of the school year, or from one year to the next.

What follows is a more detailed description of the comparative data features we offer:

We have been able to create a rich data set of norms, which are useful comparisons based on a large number of responses from schools of all sizes and locations. Knowing where your data sits in the bigger picture allows you to really see which areas you can celebrate, and which you can target for improvement.

Replica SchoolReplica School
Comparing your school’s performance with other schools that have a different student population is often not as insightful as one might expect. OurSCHOOL’s Replica School is a virtual school comprised of students with the same socio-economic characteristics as the students from your school. The Learning Bar uses proven statistical methods to accurately construct a Replica School based on our proprietary database of over 2.5 million surveyed students. By using global benchmarks, accepted by international testing agencies such as PISA, calculations are relevant regardless of your home country.

Year-over-Year Comparison
A distinct advantage of OurSCHOOL surveys lies in the ability to monitor continuously during the school year, and year-over-year. This allows you to effectively observe the impact of your school improvement efforts. Easy access to results over time rather than a one-off snapshot is just one way of helping you to achieve your school improvement goals.