KONZ | Why it's important to look beyond test scores - WDRB 41 Louisville News

KONZ | Why it's important to look beyond test scores

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WDRB education reporter Toni Konz talks to Waggener High School principal Katy Zeitz (File photo) WDRB education reporter Toni Konz talks to Waggener High School principal Katy Zeitz (File photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- I'm going to give you two perspectives on the newest release of state test scores - one as a reporter, the other as a parent.

As a longtime education reporter who has written about public schools for nearly 14 years (including 8 years in Louisville), I believe it's important to report on test scores but that it's also important to remind parents and those in the community that test scores are not the only indicator of success at a school.

As a parent, I know that my son, an eighth grader in Jefferson County Public Schools, has struggled with state tests. To be perfectly honest with you, his test scores are not good. He's considered novice in reading and apprentice in math. Despite that, he receives a good education and gets mostly As and a few Bs on his report card.

How is this possible, you ask? Well, for one, my son is a terrible standardized test taker. He has ADHD, but not the type who bounces off the walls with energy. The problem he has is staying focused for long periods of time. If you have a child who has taken a standardized test, you know that they have to stay focused for long periods of time -- and they have to do that over the course of several days.

The other problem is that I could never explain to him the importance of doing well on the test. When he was in elementary school, he simply just stopped taking the test because he got bored with it. Then his non-answers were counted as blanks and when his scores came back, it scared me to think he was either illiterate or had a learning disability. Of course, neither was the case.

His performance in each of his classes is different than what his test scores tell me. And I have no reason to believe that any of his teachers are inflating his grades. After all, I talk to my son every day. I can tell whether he's struggling or not. When he does struggle, I advocate for him. Not as an education reporter, but as his mother.

People always ask me where my son goes to school and most are shocked to find out that I actually chose to send my son to a "persistently low achieving" school -- a "priority school." Simply put, the Montessori magnet program at Westport Middle School is best place for him at this time. (You can ask me about high school next year, I am still in denial about that!)

When we first moved here, I had two weeks to pick a school in a school district I really knew little about.

Sure, I was an education reporter at a newspaper (at the time) and knew a lot about schools and education, but that was in a different city and state. Immediately, people began telling me which schools I "had" to send my child to. My son was first at one of the district's "highest performing" elementary schools. I could not get him out fast enough. It just wasn't the right fit for him. 

I found the right fit by visiting lots of schools. He ended up going to an elementary school that was towards the top of list in terms of test scores. Now he attends a school that ranks towards the bottom of that list. And I am OK with that.

During what I call the "morning after" press conference Thursday -- the morning after test scores were publicly released for the world to see -- JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens held a press conference with the media. I asked her about test scores and rankings and schools.

"Every one of our schools has proficient kids and every one of our schools has non-proficient kids," she said. "You should not leap to the assumption that because you send your kid to a certain school, it will determine how they will perform."

Hargens continued by saying she doesn't think parents should "take one number and say it means anything until you actually see the school and talk to the people who interact with your child."

"A school with the label of being the best still might have a student that is not being successful," she said. 

I don't work for JCPS. People often think because I report about JCPS all the time that I must work for them. That is not true. But I know the system well and it's what I get paid to do. It also helps that I am a parent.

As you look at your child's school ranking, test results and overall school report card, which you can find here, I'd like to encourage you to look beyond those numbers. And there is so much more in the school report card other than test data.

When you get your child's individual test scores at the end of this month, ask about them. Have the school explain to you what they mean. Then decide whether you are OK with that. And if you aren't, advocate for your child.

Ultimately, I have found it's up to the parent to decide what school is best for their child, not society or test scores. 

Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.


JCPS student test scores decline, statewide scores remain flat

JCPS 2015 High School Test Scores
JCPS 2015 Middle School Test Scores
JCPS 2015 Elementary School Test Scores

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