From news reports and talking with my grandchildren, I have been reminded that this is the time of year when most students are taking some form of standardized tests at school. I remember that my own children knew that the only things they needed to take to school for four of five days were two #2 pencils and an eraser. This was because they were going to spend their time at school reading through booklets and filling in those little bubble sheets.
These tests are an indication of what students know in various subject areas. Their scores are compared to national norms so students know how they compare with other students in their grade levels across the country. There are not only national SAT tests but there are also state level exams that have been developed by various state educational authorities that students are required to take. In some cases students are not allowed to move on to the next grade level or graduate from high school without successfully passing these tests.
I also read two interesting articles that are closely related to this season of testing students’ knowledge. One listed the top school districts in each state and the other listed the top 20 school districts in the country. I read the articles with interest because I wanted to see what metrics were being used to determine these rankings. Here is what I found.
Schools were graded according to the following criteria. There were other criteria studied but the ones below were the top weighted factors. It is interesting to note that academic achievement was weighted the most at 50% of the school’s overall grade.
- Academic Achievement – This grade was determined by proficiency in math and/or reading and the average scores by students on the ACT and SAT college entrance exams.
- Parent and Student Surveys – Parents and students were surveyed on their overall satisfaction with their experiences at school.
- Student Culture & Diversity – Here the student body culture and the degree of diversity were evaluated and given a grade.
- Resources & Facilities – Schools were graded based on the resources available to students and quality of school facilities.
There is no question that these rankings leave some key elements of education completely out of the study. For example, there is no consideration of character development mentioned. This is because today’s culture considers diversity and tolerance as the only desired values for a person to have. When considering academic achievement, it is understood that there is only value in gaining knowledge/facts about various subjects. There is no measurement concerning a student’s gaining of wisdom and understanding related to the knowledge/facts.
At the same time I was reading these articles, I heard a message by Dr. James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Georgia. I have had the privilege of sitting under his preaching for over seven years and value his teachings greatly. On the April 24th telecast, Touching Lives, Dr. Merritt made this statement.
We are not in the “information” business, we are in the “transformation” business.
I believe this statement is totally applicable to the education of our children in school as much as it is in the church. I wonder if Christian education is measuring success based on “information” more than on “transformation?” The culture of a school determines whether “information” or “transformation” is the metric by which the school measures success. A challenging statement was sent out on Twitter by James McMenis, pastor of Word of God Ministries in Shreveport, LA. He noted:
The culture of an person, family or society is determined by what is celebrated and what is disciplined!
As I thought on that statement, I began wondering what Christian schools are celebrating and what are they disciplining. From visiting many schools websites to see what is being celebrated, I find the majority of what Christian schools are promoting/celebrating is merely “informational” in nature. Information or knowledge is good to have but if it doesn’t lead to wisdom and understanding, what eternal value is it? We need to think through how we are measuring success. When we do this, let’s make sure we are truly in the transformation business.