Andreesen Horowitz recently published a list of 16 metrics that venture capitalists often look at when making investment decisions.
This made me reflect on the state of metrics for city based education reform.
Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what metrics city based leaders (either as a formal harbormaster or as a coordinated effort philanthropists and reformers) should use to set goals and track their progress.
To be blunt, I think many of the goals that city leaders set are garbage.
I’m highly skeptical about setting goals such as: “by 2025 80% of our 3rd graders will be reading on grade level.”
This is generally what you see in district strategic plans or in city based collective action plans. While I don’t have exact numbers, my guess is that approximately 100% of districts fail to meet these type of goals.
The reason is simple: these goals are not tethered to a strategy that has a realistic chance of producing the desired results.
So what should city leaders do? Here’s some metric that I find useful:
#1 New High-Quality Seat Creation
Cities should set hard targets on how many new high-quality seats (students served) they will create via new school openings (charter, traditional, or private).
The total seat number should at least be 2% of the total student population for larger cities, and closer to 5% for smaller cities. So a city with 500,000 students should be opening ~10,000 new seats a year, and a city with 40,000 students should be opening ~2,000 new seats a year.
The total seat number should also be discounted in that all new seat will be high-quality. For mature cities, I’d estimate a 65-75% high-quality rate. For cities just getting new school development off the ground, I’d estimate closer to 50-65%.
#2 Medium-Quality Seat Improvement
Assuming a city is making sound investments in talent, and there is a well structured accountability system, it is likely that medium-quality schools will improve over time. I don’t really know how to set this target, as I haven’t seen good data analysis on what we can expect from improvement. If I had to pick a number, I’d shoot for 1-2% of medium quality seats become high-quality seats each year.
#3 Teacher Pipeline
One of the biggest mistakes we made in New Orleans was opening schools faster than we were building out high-quality teacher pipelines. City leaders should be building teacher pipelines that meet the needs of their expanding high-quality school sector.
Ideally, I’d like to see 50% coverage of the teacher pipelines needed to meet the needs of all high and medium quality schools. When I talk to school leaders, they estimate that 50-70% of their new hires are new teachers, so I don’t think you need 100% coverage of the new hire needs with entry teacher pipelines.
In other words, if you have 10,000 high-quality and medium-quality seats, and you have a 20:1 student teacher ration, and you estimate 20% turnover, then you need 100 teachers a year for these schools. 50% of this number would mean that you want 50 teachers a year coming from high-quality pipelines.
#4 Parent Voice
This is another area why I’m not exactly sure what the number should be. But my rough guess is that high-quality schools should be able to support at least 5% of their families to speak in support of high-quality schools at public meetings. So if a city has 20,000 students in high-quality schools, and we assume this represents 15,000 families, then at least 750 families should participate in public forums that impact high-quality schools.
#5 Community Support
I think cities should attempt to have at least 50% of citizens answering affirmative to the question: “is education improving in our city?”
I’m still mulling much of this over. I’m very sure the above is not exactly right.
But I do think the above metrics represent a strategic world view that has a high chance of increasing educational opportunity.
Moreover, these metrics can be rolled up to make projections on outcomes such as high school graduation rates, but I do think the real strategic and analytical firepower is getting the short-term execution based metrics right.
Overtime, I’d love to see us develop more precision about what ambitious but realistic targets are across all these areas.
Lastly, if you have other ideas for metrics, I’d love to hear them.