When it comes to sizing up America’s public schools, test scores are the go-to metric of state policy makers and anxious parents looking to place their children in the “best” schools. Yet ample research indicates that standardized tests are a poor way to measure a school’s performance. It is time—indeed past time—to rethink this system, Jack Schneider says.
Beyond Test Scores reframes current debates over school quality by offering new approaches to educational data that can push us past our unproductive fixation on test scores. Using the highly diverse urban school district of Somerville, Massachusetts, as a case study, Schneider and his research team developed a new framework to more fairly and comprehensively assess educational effectiveness. And by adopting a wide range of measures aligned with that framework, they were able to more accurately capture a broader array of school strengths and weaknesses. Their new data not only provided parents, educators, and administrators with a clearer picture of school performance, but also challenged misconceptions about what makes a good school.
With better data, Schneider shows, stakeholders at the federal, state, and local levels can undo the damage of present accountability systems and build greater capacity in our schools. Policy makers, administrators, and school leaders can better identify where assistance is needed. Educators can engage in more evidence-based decision making. And parents can make better-informed choices for their children. Perhaps most importantly, better data can facilitate communication among all these groups, allowing them to take collective action toward shared, concrete goals.