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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Test scores don’t predict life outcomes

School of choice that raise reading and math scores don’t always improve later outcomes, such as graduation rates, college attainment or adult earnings, concludes an American Enterprise Institute meta-analysis by Michael Q. McShane, Patrick J. Wolf and Colin Hitt.

Furthermore, some choice programs that don’t raise scores do improve long-term outcomes.

“Policymakers need to be much more humble in what they believe that test scores tell them about the performance of schools of choice,” they conclude. “Test scores should not automatically occupy a privileged place over parental demand and satisfaction.”

Raj Chetty has “found connections between changes in students’ test scores and the likelihood that they would graduate from high school or have children as teenagers and between changes in students’ test scores and their earnings in their late 20s,” they write.

But other research has found weaker links between test scores and life outcomes.

A growing number of studies are finding that school choice programs can improve high school graduation rates, college attendance, and earnings—without producing gains in test scores. Conversely, studies of other school choice programs have found large short-term test score gains but no lasting benefits in terms of graduation rates or college attainment. . . . In 2010, a federally funded evaluation of a school voucher program in Washington, DC, found that the program produced large increases in high school graduation rates after years of producing no large or consistent impacts on reading and math scores. Conversely, a recent evaluation of Boston charter schools found no effects on high school graduation and null effects on college attendance after previous evaluations had found remarkably large impacts on reading and math scores.

Jay Greene has been looking at the disconnect between test score gains and life outcomes for awhile.

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