I found Brian O'Neill's Oct. 14 column, "Standardized Tests Are, Alas, All We Have to Measure School Success," a breath of fresh air as he was thorough in his description of our test-crazy society. Testing is not the end-all, be-all of evaluating a school's success. High test scores do not necessarily correlate with a successful school.
What if a school sacrifices all subject areas to get high reading and math scores? Is doing test prep for the PSSA in lieu of the arts, physical education, social studies and health worth a few higher percentage points? I would opt for a few lower points on the PSSA and have my students receive a "whole" education. The testing craze has narrowed our curricular focus and has been detrimental to our schools. There are other means to assess schools and provide valuable feedback on what is working and what needs work.
The Pennsylvania Middle Level Education's Schools to Watch program as part of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grade Reform is an excellent example. The process involves a 37-point evaluation where educators (not testing profiteers or politicians) actually go into the school to evaluate the entire school environment. While they look at testing data, it is only a piece of the puzzle. The evaluation team talks with all stakeholders (students, parents, teachers and administrators), observes teachers teaching, identifies the number of educational and co-curricular opportunities afforded to students.
Why do we not take a more holistic approach to measure school progress and rely solely on tests? Simply put, money. The testing industry has been one of the most profitable business endeavors and, since No Child Left Behind, it is even more alive than ever. Let's start putting children ahead of making a buck!
Principal, Canonsburg Middle School, North Fayette
The writer is the Pennsylvania Middle-Level Principal of the Year for 2012.