Talking to Your Community About Test Scores

By Nora Carr

For many parents, making sense out of their child’s test scores is like trying to understand the tax code. They know they have to deal with it; they just don’t want to. School leaders trying to explain the difference between federal Adequate Yearly Progress measures and state achievement test scores might tend to agree.

Yet test scores shape parents’ views about public education quality more than just about anything else a school or district reports. They may fret that test score mania is hamstringing teacher creativity, squeezing out the arts, and “dumbing down” the curriculum, but test scores are the first thing they turn to when comparing schools.

Ironically, private schools that don’t require entrance tests find it harder to compete for top students. For public schools, test score averages below 85 percent -- a good solid B -- may make parents think twice about their level of support for the district.

To market your schools effectively, you need to find ways to talk about test scores that don’t make parents feel like they need a doctoral degree or a foreign language translator.

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