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@dcd A few reasons I (almost) entirely ignore test scores

1. If you're sending your kids to Kindergarten or Pre-K, where most families start, why do you care how 3rd graders are reading and doing math?
2. This is especially true as test scores don't follow a cohort of students, but a particular grade. So if you're examining year over year scores, and see improvement, that doesn't mean a school is "improving" necessarily. More likely, it's demographic change moving who's sitting in the classroom.
3. I'm not impressed with what they're testing. It's a snapshot of only reading and math. I care about dozens of things about my kids education, and those are but two. Not always the two most important either.
4. Nor do I trust the numbers to be accurate. I've heard enough first hand (but off the record) accounts of either changing answers or "helping" students to find the right answers, that I don't place a lot of stock in them. I'm not satisfied that enough, or really anything, has been done to ensure the integrity of the testing system.
5. While I haven't heard of any cheating like I just described at my kid's school, there is a HUGE amount of gamesmanship about the tests. All non-testing classes have to vacate the school for test week, pep rallies, incentives, other teachers pulled off duties to coach the handful of on the cusp kids that might benefit, etc. Even without overt cheating (and again, I don't suspect any in our school), it's still about gaming the system.
6. I obviously know my kids' school well, and am reasonably familiar with a half dozen or so other nearby schools. The test scores of these schools don't "map" what I'd consider to be the spread of better to worse schools. If my thermometer said it was 80 degrees outside right now, I would trust the thermometer.

I'm not saying YOU shouldn't look at test scores. I'm saying I don't.

Re: FARM (free and reduced meal program). Yes, many people, including people I trust, use those numbers. Put bluntly, the more children that are eligible for free lunch, the more kids coming from poverty. The linkage between any number of negative educational issues and poverty is well documented (and I'm not getting into correlation vs. causation here).

So would I use it? It's complicated. I did send my kid to a school that had a high 90s FRAM percentage. My daughter had an excellent year. We jumped ship for a variety reasons, and not without misgivings (then and now). Several friends continued on, and they've done quite well.

So all this is an object lesson on why you should ignore FRAM, right? Well, not really either. The school is currently at 62% FRAM and falling. Demographic change is playing with those numbers as well. None of these are static pictures, and using FRAM, or test scores, tells you what it was like in the past.

And as every investor knows, past performance is no guarantee of future results. You're trying to predict how your kid will grow and what the school will be like in the future. Personally, I wouldn't assign a numerical value to any one of my kids attributes (she IS 85% likely not to have her shoes on on any given day however). So I'm cautious about using numbers of any sort to define a school.

I hope that's not too puff piece for Goldfish. I'd hate to disappoint him again.

by Tim Krepp on Jan 25, 2013 11:20 am • linkreport

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