With all the hype over test scores displayed by Tennessee Virtual Academy students, it seems appropriate to discuss what is—and what isn’t—displayed by test scores. Unfortunately, in recent years, test scores have become the focus of every teacher in America. With good test scores, teachers get accolades, and often financial incentives. With bad ones, they may find their status, their jobs, and even their schools in danger.
There’s just one problem: test scores are only one, somewhat arbitrary, measure of success.
Any honors student in any high school in America will tell you that there is a method of properly taking a test that will ensure a reasonable grade even without studying the material. Some of these students have been taking multiple choice tests so long that they could pass one—not score high, but pass—without ever actually looking at the material ahead of time, particularly in their chosen subjects.
There’s just one problem: if they can pass the test without ever looking at the material, then that test is an inaccurate measure of their knowledge concerning the subject. Furthermore, it is an inaccurate representation of any student’s knowledge of the subject, but rather a representation of their ability to fill in bubbles on a multiple-choice answer sheet as accurately as possible.
This explains the “arbitrary.” The other reasons are explored in the list.