Monday, September 20, 2010

Making Sense of Government Report Cards

Government agencies increasingly are putting out report cards on cars, schools, restaurants and other offerings to help consumers sort among them. But such grading systems can emphasize simplicity over precision, and decisions about the criteria they use have a significant impact on results. Plus, using letter grades risks lumping together very different performers. In Los Angeles County, 98% of restaurants got A's or B's last year for health safety....

Different agencies view the grades differently, and that view affects how they construct the grading curve. Florida education officials keep changing their formula for rating schools "to continue to raise the bar" so schools keep seeking progress, says Juan Copa, bureau chief for research and evaluation for the state Department of Education.

The health departments in Los Angeles County and New York view A grades as an incentive for restaurants that improve their practices so they can lure in more customers; therefore, there aren't plans to make it harder to ace the test.

Grading systems inevitably include some criteria while excluding others, and require that choices be made about how to weight those that are included.
-Report Cards for Consumers Don't Always Make the Grade

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