Know more than just up or down

Test results came out for some of our local schools recently. Washington, D.C. public school scores were up, especially in the elementary grades. Preliminary results showed an eight-percentage point and a four-percentage point gain for elementary students who were deemed “proficient” in math and reading, respectively.

So are these gains good news? Always! But school board members and the public need to know more about the meaning of test scores, not just whether they go up or down. That’s why a whole section of our web site is dedicated to “Good Measures for Good Schools,” a practical guide to key measures of school quality that can help you evaluate how your school is doing.

Some questions to consider when assessing test scores: Is this a one-time change or a longer-term trend? Does the average score hide the fact that some schools are doing very well while others are doing poorly? How does a particular school’s score compare to the scores of similar schools? “Good Measures” can help you figure out the answers.

Finally, you might also be interested to know that two different tests call a specific performance level “proficient” – but they mean very different things by the term. Straighten out your understanding through “The Proficiency Debate” – and then compare these scores to how well students did on NAEP.  —Rebecca St. Andrie

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