Private Schools and NAEP: A National Conversation

I think the core of the value of a private school is to provide that individualized instruction. They’re learning in a smaller environment with smaller groups of people. It’s almost like a family, moreso a family. We’re talking about testing. We don’t test as frequently as is required in the public schools. We believe in a progressive type of education, which is focused on experiential learning. The flexibility we have in curriculum, the way we’re allowed to teach, the way we relate to kids is much different than in the
public schools. Not better or worse, just different. The reality is that children in private schools are an essential element of American education. They’re part of the American family and you cannot have a comprehensive picture of education in this country without including those students. NAEP is the gold standard when it comes to providing a comprehensive picture of student achievement in the United States. It tells a story, like all assessments, it tells a story. We know that our teachers and our parents want to have a tangible way of looking at the progress that their students are making and so we know that standardized tests are important. And I think that it’s important for private schools be included in what’s going on nationally. I think parents are hungry for it. They want to know how our children are doing with other children across the nation. I think it’s important for private schools to participate in NAEP because it gives students an opportunity to participate in a national assessment. Another reason that private schools should probably participate in NAEP is because you want valid results. And if you’re leaving out a population, you’re not really getting valid results. If all you did was private schools, you wouldn’t have a very good sampling. If all you did was public schools or suburban schools or urban schools you wouldn’t have a full sampling. If it’s a National Report Card, it’s nice to be part of the discussion. We want to teach kids to be responsible as citizens. And I think that this was a great way for my students to feel that they’re a part of something that’s bigger than themselves. Why not participate? Why not be a part of making a difference in the educational system of the future? If students understand that the NAEP assessment doesn’t really single them out because their own individual scores wouldn’t be reported, it would put them at ease to just go ahead and do their best. My students knew that they would learn from this assessment and they were excited to do it. Our students did not miss a lot of class time. It was respectful of our academic day. It was respectful of the teacher’s need to make sure that the test went on and finished in a timely manner. It really was not a big deal at all. The whole process was really pretty easy and smooth. You want to be part of that type of assessment, because you represent a very unique aspect of the educational experience here in the U.S. Policymakers can’t make good choices and good decisions unless they have good information. I think participating in NAEP helps us shape the future of America. What better way to make a difference in our educational system than to take the time now to be evaluated so that we can make it better.

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