School rankings

Transparency and accountability go hand in hand. Unless, of course, the data are dishonest.

That was the case last year, when the Clark County School District rolled out its second set of campus rankings. The five-star ratings — five stars representing an A, one star signifying an F — were created to replace federal accountability standards under the flawed No Child Left Behind Act. First-year data seemed reasonable. But in the second year, the school district — under then-Superintendent Dwight Jones — emphasized improvement over actual proficiency, and didn’t take away stars from a single campus. The result: almost half of county schools received four or five stars, and none received just one star.

That’s not accountability. That’s a joke.

Last week, the state unveiled its five-star ratings for the 2011-12 school year, which replace Clark County’s. And it was a bigger step toward the honesty needed if we’re to improve our schools.

The state tagged five Clark County schools with one star, and 58 schools got two stars, compared with zero and 49 under the district’s system the previous year, respectively. Meanwhile, 66 county schools received the state’s maximum five stars, compared with 92 under the district’s system last year. There was less emphasis on improvement and more on achievement. Good.

Still, more than 80 percent of the county’s schools passed, about the same as last year. The difference: More schools got three stars, or C’s, instead of A’s or B’s. It’s a more honest report card, for sure.

But it’s important for the public to recognize that stars are not just measurements of administrators, teachers or students. They’re ratings of parents, as well. Go to just about any five-star school and you’ll find active, involved parents who are engaged with teachers and hold their children accountable for their behavior and classroom performance.

Excellence requires nothing less than that kind of commitment.

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