Educational Boxscores

I love baseball.  My wife and I are both huge Boston Red Sox fans, however, with our two little daughters, life can be pretty busy and we don’t always get to watch their games (at least not all of them).  So what do I do?  In the morning, over a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal, I skip the news and head to the sports pages to read the box scores.  Living in Canada, if you don’t follow the Blue Jays, you tend not to get much more than a “BOS 3 NYY 1” (ahhh, beating the Yankees IS so sweet).  I often long for more detail because I know that this score really tells me very little about the game.  But with respect to other teams, I am pretty content just to look at see the score–hmmm, the Mariners are losing again, Atlanta is struggling, and those darn Yankees are in first.  I get my snapshot and go on with the rest of my day because that is the data that is presented to me, and I don’t really have the time (and in some cases the interest) to look into it much further.

Currently, I am reading “Accountability for Learning” by Douglas Reeves. In his book, Reeves describes the concept of holistic accountability and finding antecedents of excellence in schools and instruction.  He also talks of the test results that we so often use to judge students, teachers, administrators, and school performance: he describes these as the “educational box score”, very analogous to the box score that I read on so many morning over my breakfast cup of joe.  Reeves says:

“Why do we reduce the art and science of teaching to a litany of test scores?  The easy response is to blame a cabal of politicians and administrators, or to expand the conspiracy theory to include big business and the entertainment industry.  But the role of victim is unworthy of the teaching profession, and we must do better.  Why has accountability been reduced to a litany of test scores?  Because WE have failed to tell our story.”

I could not agree more with Douglas Reeves.  I moan about the Fraser Institute Reports because they are not remotely representative of what schools actually do–they use some complex formula that combines test scores, parent socioeconomic status, graduation rates, and the cycle of the moon (ok, the first three were true, the last one I am only guessing on because of the FI’s degree of accuracy).  Provincial exam scores drive me crazy because they are such a narrow measure of a student learning.  I can only imagine my counterparts in the United States and their frustration with standardized testing.

But what am I using to tell the story of our school?  Test scores and failure rates.  Not good enough.

In his book, Reeves suggests a number of items that could be included at the school level, including measurable practices in

  • teaching
  • leadership
  • parent involvement
  • extracurricular activities
  • school based indicators that reflect decisions of teachers, parents, and administrators

He also describes schools having narratives that connect these indicators to district initiatives, and describe other things about their building that are not able to be measured quantitatively.

After reading his book, I realize that I cannot continue to publish the box score for my school.  While test scores and failure rates are positive for our students, they do little to describe the successes that I see every day in our students and in our staff.  I need to change this.  I have to work collaboratively with each of the stakeholders in our school to find the antecedents of success, and then use these to tell the story of our school.

So my question to investigate is, “What are the key descriptors of success at my school?”

What are yours?

Reeves, D (2004). Accountability for Learning. How Teachers and School Leaders Can Take Charge. ASCD. Alexandra, VA.


This post is cross-posted at The Learning Nation


  1. Your article in reference to the shortcomings of the ‘box score’ in baseball is why SABR-metrics was born. You could develop this metaphor further by comparing the increasing role of these stats in baseball analysis. Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball is great primer to this statistics.

    April 27, 2011
  2. Liam said:

    That sounds very similar to the use of Key Performance Indicators, I wonder if anyone has experience with the use of these in Education ?

    November 21, 2011

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