standardized tests

More Than a Score? Yes. Duh.

I am bombarded by tweets, Facebook posts and links all making the same obvious claim. My child is more than a score. It is usually then followed by a comment about the evils of testing in our schools and how wrong it is for the federal government, or state and local governments, to require that student growth and student learning be measured annually. We weigh and measure our children annually. We don’t define them by those numbers. As far as I can tell, none of the doctors or lawyers I know have spent their lives and careers defined by their scores on their medical board or bar exams. I suppose we could argue that baseball players are defined, at least in part, by their stats, but that comes with the territory when you’re being paid millions of dollars to perform on a baseball field.

‘Life Is Full of Them’

Our kids take swimming tests. They don’t lose the essence of who they are because they fail to float on their back for 30 seconds or tread water for a minute. They just try again next time. It’s probably safe to say we all know people who have failed their first driver’s license road test. They’ve all lived to tell about it, most even laugh about it, and it certainly doesn’t define who they are. It was a brief failure. Life is full of them. I got a D on a science quiz in seventh grade. It was on the phases of the moon and no matter how hard I tried to understand them, I just couldn’t get it. I didn’t think my life was over. I wasn’t defined by those moon phases then and I’m not defined by them now. Parents all over the country show every year that they are okay with scores being used as gatekeepers in private schools and public exam schools. Their kids get accepted or rejected from middle schools and high schools because of nothing more than a score. Colleges and universities reject scads of kids every year simply because they didn’t get a certain score on the SAT or ACT, they didn’t take the right number of AP classes or their class rank isn’t high enough. It is baffling that highly intelligent and otherwise rational people have chosen to latch onto this bumper sticker sounding slogan as if trying to convince people of something that they already know.

We Can't Improve If We Don't Know How

School leaders can’t improve the instruction being delivered if they don’t know how their students are doing. Americans pump over $600 billion into the K-12 educational system and they certainly deserve to see if they are getting a good return on that investment. Parents have the right to monitor how their child is faring academically and if they are struggling or falling behind their peers; they also deserve to know if their child excels and performs better than most kids his/her age. Teachers should understand how their kids fare after spending a whole year with them. And principals must be able to identify their best teachers and their weaker teachers who may need support. It makes sense. The results on tests don’t define a child, but they do allow us to make sure they get what they need while they are in school. Test scores also help ensure that no specific group is being served better or worse than any other group. Equity is dependent on these measures. So I think we can all agree that kids are more than a score. They are a million more things actually but that doesn’t mean that their scores on tests aren’t valuable to them, their parents or their schools. On the contrary, they provide information not just about the individual child but about that child as part of a larger group. Sometimes patterns emerge. Sometimes a school leader and his team realize they really didn’t do a good job teaching a certain topic. And with the data, they can (and should) adjust. So unless you’re the mother or father of a major leaguer during playoffs or the World Series, I think it’s safe to say that we all agree: our children are far more than a score.
Erika Sanzi is a mother of three sons and taught in public schools in Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island. She blogs at School Matters.
Erika Sanzi
Erika Sanzi is a mother of three sons and taught in public schools in Massachusetts, California and Rhode Island. She has served on her local school board in Cumberland, Rhode Island, advocated for fair school funding at the state level, and worked on campaigns of candidates she considers to be champions for kids and true supporters of great schools. She is currently a Fordham senior visiting ...

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