If you're a parent concerned about the performance of your child's school, it's best to remember that recently released test results say as much about the flaws of the federal No Child Left Behind law as they do about school quality.
For the most part, local school districts are doing better when tested against federal standards. This is partly because teachers and administrators truly are striving to deliver the best education to all students, regardless of disability, economic status or language barriers. However, the slowly improving test scores also are a result of a greater focus on the standardized tests themselves and the subject matter that will be included in those tests.
We remain unconvinced that standardized testing is a worthy measure of school progress. And the method of reporting results under the No Child Left Behind law is particularly troubling because an entire school - even a very good school - can be labeled as not making 'adequate yearly progress' because one or two students don't meet the standards.
Eventually, the federal law must be amended to accommodate reality. In the meantime, parents ought not obsess over the scores, but look at them as just one tool - and a highly imperfect one at that - to evaluate their child's school.