Skip to main content

Measuring School Quality

Ladd,  H., & Loeb, S. (2013). The challenges of measuring school quality: Implications for educational equity. In D. Allen, & R. Reich (Eds.), Education, justice, and democracy (pp.22-55). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Available at 20Measuring%20School%20Quality.pdf

This paper explores the challenges of defining and measuring education quality using different conceptualizations of equity.  The authors describe three proxy variables for measuring education quality: measures of resources, such as spending per pupil or teachers per pupil; observations of school practices or processes; and outcomes, such as test scores, or earnings.  The advantages and disadvantages of choosing one or more of these variables, they argue, are dependent upon one’s equity paradigm.  While no approach to measuring quality is perfect, whether equity is conceived as access to equal quality schools, equal opportunity, or adequacy will influence how much emphasis should be placed on one approach relative to another.

Oakland Unified School District. (2011, June). Examples of school quality standards. Oakland, CA: Author. Available at 20Development%20Task%20Force%20Summary%20Report.pdf

To develop the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) School Quality Standards, the OUSD Quality Community School Development group collected and analyzed existing school quality standards used in districts and education organizations around the country. The excerpt included in your binder presents examples of school quality standards that OUSD used to inform the district’s standards. Examples come from Minneapolis Public Schools, National Council for Community Schools, New York City Public Schools, New Leaders for New Schools, Oakland Schools Foundation, and San Francisco Unified School District, among others.

Childress, S., Higgins, M., Ishimaru, A., & Takahashi, S. (2011). Managing for results at the New York City Department of Education. In J. O’Day, C. Bitter, & L. Gomez (Eds.), Education reform in New York City: Ambitious change in the nation’s most complex school system (pp. 87-108). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. Available for purchase at

This chapter describes the New York City Department of Education’s strategy for driving school improvement which hinges on granting schools autonomy and support in exchange for high levels of accountability.  The authors discuss the district’s theory of action – the idea that greater control over instruction and resources, will allow principals to more effectively raise student achievement – and the organizational changes it made to put its theory into practice.  In the restructured system, school quality reviews provide a leading indicator of school improvement and also function as an organizational learning tool, while school progress reports provide a lagging indicator and function as an accountability tool.  The authors conclude with an analysis of teacher perception survey data, reporting preliminary evidence of an association between student performance and a school culture that values organizational learning and accountability.