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We all want our kids to get ahead, right?

Article by William McKenzie January 14, 2014 //   3 minute read

There is probably not a parent alive who doesn’t want to see their child or children move ahead. They want to see them find their strengths and make their way through the world. Unless I am wrong, we all want that for our children.

But how do we move them forward? There are many answers to that question, yet we can’t begin to find them until we discover what our children can do well and what they can’t do so well. Once we have identified their strengths and weaknesses as individuals, we can begin to build upon their talents and work on their deficits.

That concept applies to their schooling, as well. Assuming we want our kids to progress, we need to know where our kids excel and where they don’t.

In short, that’s what school accountability is all about.  It may appear like it is all about testing, but testing is only the means to the end. The end is making sure our kids have a shot at making it in the broader world.

The fancy term for making one’s way through the world is social and economic mobility. Unfortunately, that concept has gotten lost in the bloody battles over accountability in Washington, state capitals and school districts. The attention is too often on the means, not the end.

So, let’s take a step back from those red-hot debates and remember the larger point: Social and economic mobility largely starts with a strong education foundation. Indeed, this new Brookings Institution study identifies five variables that children need to advance. 

Naturally, a good education is one of them. In the early grades, students need strong reading and math skills. In high school, they need not only to know the basics but master them at a rate that allows them to have a shot at college. And college is important because a child will have much more mobility throughout their lives with a degree. (As the report indicates, some college is better than none, but a four-year degree is better. College grads often have greater ability to adapt in a changing economy.)

A good system of measurements helps put students on the path to this kind of mobility. I don’t doubt there are ways to fine-tune such systems, but don’t we all want to get our kids on that path?