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What About Test Scores?

Today’s educational world seems obsessed with test scores as a measure of success. While test scores may have a meaningful role in helping to assess an individual student’s progress in order to better teach that pupil, test scores are increasingly misused to evaluate the quality of teachers and schools.

Test scores drive policies and debates about public education, with the general consensus that better scores mean better education -- and most private schools have unfortunately chosen to accept that premise rather than challenge it. Here is another premise: when test scores are tied to money, test scores will be corrupted.

For public schools, when funding is allotted according to group test performance, every effort will be made to “teach to the test” and, in some extreme cases, principals have doctored the scores. For private schools, the temptation is equally great to impress charitable foundations and private donors through group test results.

The easiest way to get better group test results is to manipulate those results, and even some Christian schools have chosen to cherry-pick the best scores. Perhaps only the scores of college-bound students will be reported, or perhaps only the scores of students from native English-speaking families, or perhaps only the scores of American citizens. Scores can also be manipulated by selective admissions practices that admit only high-scoring or high-potential students. Many private schools give full scholarships to brilliant students who will automatically increase the class or school test scores. The cost of a full scholarship is nothing compared to the money from foundations and private donors in recognition of this “achievement” – let alone the tuition from other families who want their children to achieve such high scores.

Test scores that benefit students measure individual progress and help to tailor an approach that can produce real learning. This is precisely what Keystone Christian Academy offers.

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