In one of our faculty meetings at the beginning of the school year one of our Assistant Principals was tasked with talking about testing. While not an enviable job, he did it well. But he made one comment that I wanted to explore a little bit. Paraphrasing, he said something along the lines of, "While many of us have issues with how important the tests are, or what they consist of, or how valid the are, all of us with young children have looked up the test scores of the schools they might go to." His point being, among other things, that even teachers who perhaps don’t agree with the emphasis on testing still check out the scores when it comes to their own kids.
So, while I don’t disagree that this is probably accurate, it made me wonder about how "true" it really is. I imagine most teachers do look at the test scores for their kid’s school (or possible schools), but then I wonder how much of an effect that has on their decision. I’ll be interested to see the responses to this post, both from the edublogosphere as a whole and hopefully from some of the folks in my building, but let me share my story in an effort to be transparent here.
I happen to live in the school district that has the highest overall scores on the CSAP, the state test for Colorado. My neighborhood school consistently scores either first or second in various categories among elementary schools in our district. Yet after a year in Kindergarten, and despite really wanting her to go to a neighborhood school, we chose to open enroll our daughter in a magnet school in the district. This is despite the fact that the magnet school is about a 25 minute drive, and the fact that this school consistently scores second from the bottom in the district on the CSAP. In other words, we chose to move our daughter from a school that’s less than 5 minutes away with some of the highest test scores in the state, to a school that’s 25 minutes away (in good weather) and has mediocre test scores (very low for the district, but middle of the road for the state).
Other than being insane (which is always a possibility), why would we do this? Well, it’s pretty simple. We think this school has the best chance of helping her become the adult human being we hope she becomes, as opposed to maximizing her chances to get a high test score. That doesn’t mean our neighborhood school is horrible, or that we don’t value readin', ritin' and 'rithmetic. It simply means that, philosophically and hopefully in practice, this school has a better chance to create a well-rounded, intellectually curious, happy, lifelong and continual learner who will live a life where she contributes to the greater good of the entire world. And, for us, that’s more important than her CSAP scores.
So, as my high school works on defining our mission and vision, values and goals, I’m curious – what do you look for in a school?