How important are a school's test scores? | Ask Mrs. Brooke

Joy Brooke - Contributed
Joy Brooke
— image credit: Contributed

Dear Mrs. Brooke,

I’ve had a lot of parents ask me about how important a school’s test scores are and should they choose to move their child to another school with better scores. What is your opinion?

Erin Subcleff, teacher at Sandburg Elementary

Dear Ms. Subcleff,

As educators we are constantly teaching and assessing and reteaching and reassessing and we know that a test score only shows one point in time for a child on that given day and it can be skewed by many factors given a poor breakfast, nerves, lack of sleep the night before, family situation, etc. We also know that what makes a great school is more than you can ever find in looking at a test score.

However, we cannot be blind to the fact that in this moment in time, test scores are constantly being viewed as the way we evaluate our schools and even our teachers. It is easy to see how a parent can be caused anxiety when the school your child is to attend or currently attends does not display the highest of test scores. Every parent wants their child to have the best education possible and so if moving is a viable option it may certainly enter a parent’s mind.

However, I believe, although test scores are indeed one factor a parent should look at when deciding where your child should attend school, this is definitely not the only factor. There are many other considerations. I agree with Carol Pate, Ed.D., associate professor and chair of the Education Department at Chestnut Hill College. Below are some of her suggestions.

Look for:

• Schools that devote time for teacher collaboration

• Teachers who provide significantly more frequent feedback to parents than a typical report card

• Schools that invite parents to be part of the school community in meaningful ways

• Schools that involve students in service learning and community-building activities

• Schools that include an intensive focus on student data from multiple sources

• Teachers who compare students to themselves rather than to other student groups

I know from experience the anxiety a parent feels when the neighborhood school your child may attend does not have the highest test scores in the district.

However, for parents who value socio-economic diversity these schools may provide a different type of education – one in which students are exposed to the kind of diverse population they’ll encounter in the real world.

And, says Dr. Pate, some of the worry may be exaggerated. “Parents need to know that there are many, many successful students from diverse populations, and students from middle to low SES educated by superb public schools,” he said on his website.

Ask around among the parent community, take a school tour and get a feel for the school, but most importantly, Dan Gilbert from Stanford School of Education reminds us that it is important not to stop at the question: “Which school has the best test score?” or “Which is the best school?” but “Which is the best school for your child?”

Choose an environment for your child to grow academically, but also socially and emotionally.

Make goals with your child and help him achieve those goals.

Then come test day, make sure your child gets enough sleep the night before, feed your child a good hearty breakfast, calm the nerves by giving some extra support and love when that test score comes months later.

Know that your child is made up of more than that number on the piece of paper and so is the school in which he/she attends.

As your child’s first and most important teacher choose a school that will inspire your child to become a lifelong learner and thrive among diversity of all kind, valuable skills, but which no test could ever assess.

Joy Brooke is the first and most important teacher of her 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. She resides in downtown Kirkland with her husband and two children. Brooke is a National Board Certified teacher in Literacy: Reading- Language Arts/Early and Middle Childhood, holds a B.A. in Educational Studies and a M.A. in Educational Policy and Management from the University of Oregon. The opinions provided in this column do not reflect that of the LWSD or any other organization she is affiliated.


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