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Scores dont make a school. Teachers do.
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Just how good is your school?

It’s a good question. Unfortunately we often seek the wrong answers.

Quality education isn’t a numbers game. That’s not saying test scores and grades don’t matter. But to judge a school, teacher, or student solely on the numbers tests generate misses the entire point of an education. It is not to develop memorization skills or to see how many kids can get accepted at the University of California system. The goal is to have graduates that are productive citizens with not just basic skills but who also have the attitude and aptitude need to keep learning as they go through life. Those are things that are hard to quantify given individual backgrounds and the fact not everyone thinks or learns alike.

Yet most of us judge the success of schools solely on state test scores.

So if that is the case why do students like Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa succeed?

Quinones-Hinojosa is a University of California Berkeley and Harvard Medical School graduate who performs 250 brain surgeries a year.

His parents didn’t shop around for schools based on test scores. In fact, the schools he went to as a child would probably rank among the worst in California — if they were here instead of in Baja California. The schools Quinones-Hinojosa attended were in Mexicali where he graduated.

He illegally entered this country at age 19 and went about working in the fields and doing all sorts of jobs with low pay and dangerous working conditions. He started going to Delta College at night. Certainly no slam on Delta College, but there are a good number of parents and students that turn their noses up at Delta for being a “community college” and therefore not up to snuff. It is there that teachers stepped up and made the impossible for Quinones-Honojosa by nurturing him. It goes without saying that Quinones-Honojosa stepped up as well.

“Honesty, there is no question, I wouldn’t be where I am today of it weren’t for San Joaquin Delta College,” Quinones-Honojosa, who is a brain surgeon at John Hopkins University, recently noted.

Not bad for a school that so many pan.

Of course, education snobs will say Quinones-Honojosa is an aberration.

But that ignores the fact the doctor himself points out that having an education opportunity to access and teachers willing to go beyond “teaching to a test” is what made the difference.

Manteca Unified schools by any measure deliver an above average educational opportunity. How that translates into measurable numbers, though, causes some to essentially trash talk various schools within the district and — by implication — teachers.

My favorite are those who latch on to percentile ratings on various websites and then go to town either slamming or praising schools based on their perceptions.

If people are going to engage in measuring the quality of schools by numbers, then they need to think about what they are doing.

Percentile and percentage are not interchangeable. Percentile rankings are on a scale from 0-100. If 100 schools are scored on how their students take a math test the percentile refers to where their scores fell in comparison with other schools and not raw scores. There is someone ranked along every part of the curve. However, percentage correct doesn’t require someone to get a 100 percent or someone to fail miserably and get no question or only a handful right. Percentage is simply raw data. Percentile rankings place that raw data on a definite yardstick.

Years ago, parents at Del Oro High in Placer County were downright despondent when the Loomis high school that was populated by the children of Aerojet engineers and high raking state bureaucrats — was ranked at the 75th percentile in math scores statewide while Lincoln —  a nearby blue collar community—  was at the 81st percentile. But once you looked at the raw scores, Del Oro students averaged 74.9 percent of the answers correct while Lincoln was 76.5 percent. Not a significant difference by any standard. But because a large number of California schools were bunched up with the percentage of answers correct, the percentile rankings were much wider although the actual difference was minuscule at best.

Good teachers can impart a lot of extremely valuable things that aren’t reflected in test scores.

It is why people need to put less focus on scores and pay more attention to programs  a school offers and how successful it is getting students engaged in  learning.

The assumption is that school with high test scores must mean the school is good.

What it really means is the school is good at teaching to the test.

The most important things students learn in schools aren’t easy to quantify. Besides a collective score for a school that may be within 10 or so points of another campus doesn’t show how that “lower scoring schools” may have taken students who were struggling and helping then succeed. It is harder and reflects a stronger and more sportive  education setting when schools can take “D” students and transform them into “C” students as opposed got helping bump someone up from “A-” to “A” status.

Scores don’t make a school. Teachers and students do.

Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.