We applaud the effort, led by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, to look beyond test scores when measuring school performance (“More criteria sought to judge schools,” Metro, Dec. 6). As James Vaznis notes in his article, indicators such as “school climate” tell us a great deal about the education students are receiving. Yet for the past two decades, such measures have been overlooked in favor of what Vaznis terms “a laser-like focus on standardized test scores.” In addition to fostering a narrow view of quality, this approach has promoted negative views of diverse schools, because of the strong link between test scores and variables such as family income.
Given the state’s track record on this matter, we hope that the public does not merely allow the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to prescribe new school quality measures. Our group, the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment, is engaged in similar work. Unlike the state, however, we are not afraid of “radical changes to the accountability system.” Nor are we committed to the act of ranking schools. We have lived under the testing regime for nearly a quarter century.
Now it’s time to learn from our mistakes, reorienting data systems to provide fair and comprehensive information that engages communities, empowers educators, and supports students.
Schneider is an assistant professor of education at the College of the Holy Cross, Khelfaoui is the Lowell superintendent of schools, and Fearing is president of the Revere Teachers Association.