How is the effectiveness of an educational program evaluated? For most parents, this is a difficult question to answer. Most default to standardized test scores such as the SAT or, here in South Carolina, MAP scores. While these types of tests might provide some indications about the population in a school, they ultimately lack the ability to provide indications about the effectiveness of an educational program in relation to that population.
For example, let’s take school A: the average SAT score for school A places it in the 85th percentile. On the surface, that’s pretty good. However, this school also has done some cognitive ability testing, which demonstrated that the cognitive ability of its students places them in the 90th percentile. All of a sudden, that 85th percentile SAT score, far from being an indication of a strong academic program, is an indication that the students aren’t performing at a level that matches their cognitive ability.
Conversely, let’s take school B: the average SAT score for school B also places it in the 85th percentile. However, the cognitive ability testing places this population of students in the 80th percentile. In this case the 85th percentile SAT score is an indication that the students were performing at a level well above what would be predicted by their cognitive ability.
These schools have the same SAT, but there is a huge difference in what it tells us about the effectiveness of the educational program in question.
Which school would you want your student going to – a school that adds value by extending students beyond their natural potential, or a school that settles for a “good” testing number regardless of the implications about student potential. Obviously, most of us would want our kids at a school that pushes them beyond what otherwise might be their natural aptitude.
All too often schools focus on the number rather than the student. Unfortunately, this has often led parents to a poor understanding of what the testing numbers actually mean for their students as individuals.
Please understand, the easiest way for private schools to raise their test scores is to raise their admissions criteria and exclude kids who struggle. However, this obviously doesn’t mean that their educational program has improved, and it certainly doesn’t mean that their program is improving the kids’ education. It just means that they’re being picky about who to include in their sample. It’s far more impressive to do the hard work of working with kids as individuals, helping them to realize their potential.
At HHCA we are committed to making sure that our students have a great education. This means that we look at them as individuals, and that we measure success in terms of students meeting and expanding their potential. And we actually measure this using cognitive ability testing as an integral part of our standardized testing program.
So how is the effectiveness of an educational program evaluated? Done right, it compares actual performance to aptitude by looking at standardized test scores in conjunction with cognitive ability. Anything less is missing the point.