Standardized tests won't be an absolute measure of academic performance until we standardize children.
And, who with a clear conscience would ever want to do that.
Children are just as unique as adults. They have a broad range of IQs (and, do you really trust intelligence quotient measurements?), a wide range of personalities from introversion to extroversion, a broad range of attention spans; and, few mature according to a schedule carved in stone.
And yet, standardized tests are basically the only tool available to us under our system of public education for measuring performance. Whether they are the PSSA in Pennsylvania, the OAA in Ohio, the TCAP in Tennessee or 47 others around the country, they all have a basic flaw in that they attempt to extract some constant from something that can never be constant: human development and learning.
The No Child Left Behind Act, though roundly criticized, had at its core a reasonable goal: Try to make sure that the standards of education in the various states meet a certain national standard, much like what is done in many other countries, some of which have educational systems that have been outperforming our own.
But the law took a wrong turn in its implementation (as they so often do), because it threatened states with the loss of federal funds if they failed to comply without providing the innovation necessary to succeed. It simply relied on a test, on the averages, on the statistics. The states, in turn, threatened their individual school districts, and the threat of dire consequences continued to roll downhill to individual teachers. And thus, reacting to the threats, the standardized tests have become an overriding force in education. Teachers and school districts, fearing the consequences, teach for the test. The benchmark has become mediocrity.
Of course, those children blessed with families who place a high priority on educational achievement will continue to excel, as well as those with natural academic aptitude.
And, so it is in Warren County as we measure one school's performance against another's based on a flawed system. Sure, pay attention to the numbers, but remember to consider that they are only a rough guess, an accounting that is susceptible to statistical aberrations, that there is an invisible asterisk behind each of them.