Test Data Analysis: How to Measure and Improve Student Learning
Perhaps the most fundamental principle of organizational effectiveness is the need to clearly establish purpose and measure results. In schools the focus of purpose is on student learning. Fortunately an excellent measure (at least at lower grade levels) is available -- standardized achievement test scores. While it is by no means perfect, careful analysis of growth rates and percentiles of achievement compared with ability over a period of at least five to ten years provides a valuable, indeed essential, measure of performance. School boards need to be sure that their administrators are reporting test scores to them in easily understandable formats. Outsiders can also interpret these data -- concerned parents or taxpayers, for example. Teachers and administrators should welcome such measures, even though there are some risks, because they are a way of demonstrating good performance, improving results, and justifying funding and salaries.
Test scores are only one indicator of performance, and no one measure of schools is adequate by itself. I have placed this chapter after those on parent and teacher surveys because test scores are less accurate and less complete as a measure. They change from year to year in ways that are sometimes inexplicable. Nevertheless, by measuring results, performance is improved and individual creativity and differences of style and method are encouraged, as long as they produce good results. Test scores are a much more gentle measure then some of the extremely complicated and time-consuming objective-setting techniques imposed by some states on their schools. And be careful not to overmeasure, providing an incentive to fiddle with results. A