Choosing the Right School for Your Child Part 3: Qualitative vs. Qualitative Data

Education and access to knowledge hold a sacred place for Black Americans. From the time when it was inaccessible to us, the risks that we took to acquire it, and the opportunities that have arisen for us from its acquisition, we have always valued learning and education.

Our demographic – the Black members of generations X and Y – have become the caretakers of that tradition. Now in our prime parenting years, we are faced with difficult choices as we consider the scholastic portion of our children’s education.

This series of articles chronicles five aspects to consider as you choose the right school for your child. There is no one strategy that will help you to find that “best fit”, but these basic guidelines will be beneficial to you on your search.

3. The qualitative data is infinitely more important than the quantitative data.

With the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), schools have understandably begun to present their standardized test scores as proof of their ability to educate children (see my rant about NCLB here). In independent schools, they may present College Board scores in lieu of state-mandated ones. In either case, remember the phrase “quality of education”: it is your reminder that how well a school educates its students is a qualitative matter, and not solely a quantitative one. Test scores don’t indicate whether your child’s teacher will call you and tell you if they have had a rough day. They don’t tell you whether the teachers at the school consider themselves professionals who regularly study their craft, and they don’t indicate the competence of the administration and its vision for the school. The best schools develop a love of learning within their students; they encourage them to become lifelong learners, with a sense of global citizenship, upstanding morals and ethics, proper study habits, organizational skills, and the ability think in increasingly abstract ways. None of these can be measured by counting the number of correctly filled-in bubbles on a standardized test.

Also be aware that in many states, grades can be given on a school’s progress as opposed to their actual proficiency. For example, a school can be rated as an “exemplary school” or an “A school” because they have moved their students from a rate of 89% failure to a rate of 69% failure on the state-mandated reading and math tests. While that progress is promising, neither rate of failure should be acceptable, and is not the type of environment in which you want your child to be taught.

Overall, keep in mind that just as you can’t measure love with a ruler, you can’t determine the quality of an education using only quantitative means. Dig deeper than the statistics.

Check back in to for Part 4 of this series:  Bring Your Kids!

Part 1 · Part 2 · Part 3 · Part 4 · Part 5

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