Test Scores and Garage Doors.

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Educators hate mandated testing.Garage Door Theory.

Hate.  Hate.  Hate it.

It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard (for those of you younger than 35… chalkboards were used to write on and deliver notes to students before your fancy whiteboards and SMARTBoards came along).

Yet, I think schools perform at a higher level because of testing (not a popular position, I know). 

That being said, I disagree with many of the decisions by the people (politicians) who have put testing in place.

The truth is people perform better when they are evaluated. 

I don’t like it.  You don’t like it.  Nobody likes it.

I’ve never met anyone who said "Yeah, it’s time for my evaluation.  Sweet!"

I can’t say testing has made students smarter, but I think it’s made teachers and administrators more accountable.

I also think it’s a mortal lock that everyone involved, from politicians to testing companies, has benefited more than kids from all this "testing business".

Don’t kid yourself, it’s big business.  Really big.

Those who demand more testing also seem to believe scores are a reflection of student intelligence.  Higher Scores = Better Teachers and Smarter Students.

I don’t buy this.

As educators, we face challenges that can’t be tested.

I think the number one challenge for education and educators in this country is poverty.

My late father-in-law used to say he could drive through any community and tell you their test scores.  He called it his "Garage Door Theory".

More garage doors equaled higher test scores.

Communites with large houses with three car garages did better than communities with smaller houses and fewer garages.

Maybe his theory was a bit simplistic.  Or maybe he was more correct than most of us want to believe.

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9 Responses to “Test Scores and Garage Doors.”


  1. Tim
    on Jan 6th, 2013
    @ 3:26 pm

    Interesting. Wish I needed more garage doors…

    Michael Smith Reply:

    You can never have enough.


  2. wozza
    on Jan 7th, 2013
    @ 12:43 am

    Put me in the too simplistic column, Mike.

    His point (and I’m sure the Evil Spawn’s grandfather was a lovely man) is what? That more wealth equals more intelligence? That love of (or desire for) material possessions is a good thing? That oil is power? I’m not sure, but whatever – it’s simplistic yes. Measuring the pumpkin a lot doesn’t make it grow faster (or taste sweeter) – or something like that.

    I’m not big on summative tests either as you’ve guessed but I think you’re right that diagnostic testing improves schools (I think that’s what you meant big guy). Sounds like a contradiction but it’s not really. This kind of testing shows you care about improvement after all (rather than the final version of the pumpkin).

    Lord knows if all that makes sense. It’s late on a Monday and I have another few hours of work before hometime.

    I’m re-reading Walden (about all I can buy in China’s bookstores are the classics) and he makes some interesting points about poverty and education in the first chapter – Economy. Worth searching for!!

    Love to you and the family and happy new year. Wozza


  3. Alicia Manuel Kessler
    on Jan 9th, 2013
    @ 12:24 pm

    I don’t find it simplistic at all. I grew up in the back of beyond where having a garage door was THE American dream. It meant there was a greater chance your Dad (this was the 70s-80s) went to work everyday, and thus did not have the opportunity to get drunk during the day and throw you against the heating stove that night.
    Yes, that happened to classmate of mine.

    When you are in the depths of poverty nobody gives three hoots about what goes on at school. That doesn’t mean those folks don’t KNOW on some level it is important and the only way out. They do. And they feel hopeless. And that just might be what makes ‘em drink.

    Well that was pretty Debbie Downer. But so was/is the life of a lot of my fellow 618′ers.


  4. Michael Smith
    on Jan 10th, 2013
    @ 7:44 am

    @Alicia Manuel Kessler, You speak the truth.


  5. Vanessa
    on Jan 11th, 2013
    @ 7:51 am

    I’ve lived in a 2 car garage my adult life, grew up in a 1 car, my kids went to an exceptional rural school district that had high stakes testing. I’ve worked in no car garage districts my 32 years as an educator. I can honestly say, it is all about poverty. It’s not about race or desire. There are success stories from low income schools and over time some students do well on standardized tests, but by and large they do not. The scenario is repeated throughout the US. Teachers in these schools have to work harder than teachers in the 2-3 car garage districts without compensation. It’s just the truth. Our kids come to school as 4 yeear olds behind. Head start doesn’t even catchthem up. There needs to be a HUGE shift in the way we honor education, starting with educator’s salaries, valuing children and respect for education.


  6. HHH4U
    on Jan 18th, 2013
    @ 2:44 pm

    Wow, I never thought about it like that. If you think about it’s just like saying that the better neighborhoods have the best schools, and the crappy neighborhoods have the bad schools (which I do believe this to be true). How can we make it “even”? I might expand on this a little down the road: http://hopehonorandhappiness.com.


  7. Mike
    on Jan 27th, 2013
    @ 12:23 pm

    The thing about a hypothesis is that if there is a single exception, then the hypothesis is invalid. If one poor student has ever been successful, then poverty is not an educational death sentence. In my region, there are 40,000 AVID students. More than 80% of them are poor AND minority and 99.9% will graduate, 95% will complete the college requirements (35% statewide), and more than 3/4 will enroll in a 4-year university. There is an example of 40,000 exceptions to your hypothesis that poverty causes low achievement. Certainly, there is a correlation, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the students’ fault or that the problem has no solution. That is “fixed mindset” thinking. Only the adults in the system can solve this problem. And I completely agree that however politically disfavorable, accountability has done amazing things at the schools that struggle the most.


  8. Dave Shearon
    on Mar 25th, 2013
    @ 4:16 pm

    Garage doors will tell you about raw test scores. Won’t tell you much at all about the quality of the schools, at least as measured by value-added scores. (Note: data is from about 15 years ago – I don’t think there has been any major change and I’ve been in touch with Dr. Sanders over the years, but can’t be positive!) -Scroll down for data by Free & Reduced Lunch. http://shearonforschools.com/summary/GRAPH-SUM.HTML

    One thing I like about value-added analysis (and it’s not perfect and some may be misusing it these days) is that it can show the quality work of teachers, leaders and parents in schools where the raw test scores may not look great.

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