By the numbers

No matter how you feel about No Child Left Behind (and, come to think of it, I’d love to hear how our readers feel about No Child Left Behind — drop me a line), there’s no denying that the five-year-old experiment has landed a heap of information in our laps. Charts of test scores, sliced and diced by income and English proficiency, mapped against previous years, lined up, ranked, and color coded.

Phew. Numbers take on a real weight when you look at them that way.

We asked our readers how they chose schools for their children (find some of your answers on page 32) and a good number answered, “Test scores.” Fair enough. I look at my own district and see proficiency is dipping in math and stagnant in reading and that worries me.

But, in our own school search, I got another piece of advice that I think is worth sharing. My mother-in-law is an educator. “Those test scores,” she said, “just tell you how well they educate other kids.” To find out how well any given school is going to educate our kids, she said, we needed to take a good hard look at the programs offered, the curriculum, the style of teaching.

On our list of possible schools, we’ve got our neighborhood school, a Montessori school, an International Baccalaureate program, an open school, an arts-focused school, and — deep breath — private religious school. I know which of those schools would come out on top if I lined up their test scores. I just don’t know yet whether that would be the best place for our kids. We’ve got a fair bit of homework to do.

I foresee a busy, busy fall.

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