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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Makes a Good School?

I went to Washington D.C. this weekend to visit my best friend from high school (and college for that matter). I booked my flight too late so I had to fly into Baltimore and have a car take me from BWI to D.C. The driver of the car was this wonderfully friendly young lady from Pakistan. She told me about her life, how she had moved here with her husband 10 years ago and how he had left her to raise their 8 year old daughter alone. She was driving for this car service at night so that she could provide a better life for her daughter. They had recently decided to move to Dallas, TX because the cost of living was a lot cheaper and she was looking for a warmer climate. After telling me this, she asked me an interesting question: “Do you think that my daughter will not get as good of an education in Texas because the schools there do not rank as high as the schools here on standardized testing?”

I thought, “well it is funny you ask” because most people think that standardized testing is a good indicator of a quality education but I do think differently. Then I was reading a blog related to the same question. And I think what Marni Goltsman is saying has a lot of truth in it. What makes a good school really is the teachers and staff that love what they do and parents that get involved in their children's education. But these two things almost have to coexist in order for a school to be really successful. One will not thrive long without the other. And as for standardized test scores being a reliable indicator of a good education - no, it is not. I grew up outside of Little Rock, AR (where schools did not rank very high in test scores). I moved to a school district in Kansas my Junior year of high school that ranked very highly in its test scores. As for what they were teaching - they were teaching what I had already learned the previous year in both Math and English. So I would have learned more by staying at my low test score ranking district in Arkansas.

But back to the lady from the car service – This part is so much more IMPORTANT than any test a child can take. I told her about my experience and my thoughts on the matter and she agreed. She said that she thought it was more important that she teach her daughter to be KIND and LOVING to others and to treat them with RESPECT and like human beings. It would be this knowledge that would make her successful and happy. I had been told this before by a very wise friend and even though it sounds straight forward, it seems that people are forgetting this simple truth.

And the last thing I thought about was all the school districts we work with. Some of them do rank very high on standardized testing and others not as high. But all of these schools, I have seen, have some amazing teachers that truly love what they do and that makes all the difference in the world. So we should all take a moment to appreciate those teachers that put in the extra effort and are dedicated to educating our children.

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Blogger Abbey McLaughlin said...

I agree, I don't think it should matter at all. At my High School they would give us free breakfast and do all this crazy stuff before standardized tests, but I think it's a bit silly for a school to put so much emphasis on something like that. Perhaps the money that went toward "free breakfast" could have gone to something much more useful for the school and its students.

Plus, Dallas is the greatest city in America. Nobody should ever forgo moving there because of something as lame as test scores. One thing's for sure, she can count on GREAT football.

1/19/10, 5:37 PM  

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