We now close our look at the 2012 education Olympiad and offer some concluding thoughts.

Again, 2012 may be somewhat outdated, but it was a special year in history when essentially all the major international, national, and local standardized tests were administered at more or less the same time.  Those rare circumstances allowed for a cross analysis of these assessments, which yielded greater insight into comparisons about student achievement. That year also occurred at the height of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era in public education when our culture was fixated on standardized test scores.

It is very important to remember that this exercise in analysis and its conclusions, are only valuable to the extent one believes student achievement is measured exclusively by standardized test score results.  

We looked at six categories, or events, that spanned three different subjects and two different grade levels.  We learned that the USA, as a whole, would not have been very competitive against the top education nations in the world–failing to win or medal in any of the events.  That conclusion aligns with the stigma often perpetuated during NCLB time–that our nation’s education was not measuring up. However, as a matter of new perspective, we considered the scenario of having Montana being the USA’s lone delegation to represent them in those six events.  The result of that change in circumstances yielded significantly different results, with Montana medaling in three of the six events and finishing among the top nations in the world. We can thus conclude that while the USA, as a whole, may indeed have performed below expectations, that is not true of Montana.  The final medal count is shown below and indicates Montana would be worthy of congratulations.

A table showing the final medal count for the education Olympiad


This same conclusion is also true of many individual states.  On the next chart is a list of the general results had the same competitions included each of the fifty US states competing individually–not just Montana, alone.  It should be noted that this additional change in circumstances basically doubles the amount of participants in the testing with roughly half of them being US states.  In that scenario, there are some additional encouraging results.  As an example, in 4th grade science, US states would’ve claimed seven of the top ten spots, and that jumps to nine of the top ten in 8th grade science. Even more outstanding is 4th grade reading, where US states also would’ve also taken nine of the top ten spots, including first place and sweeping the medals.  Kudos to the many other US states for doing so well–many of whom would have fared just as well as Montana as the USA’s delegation in this Olympiad!


All 50 States Competing


Since additional test results allowed for further extrapolation and projection at a more local level, there is still more remarkable insight comparing the world’s top nations in education with the USA, Montana, and even Swan River School.  While a perfect science in this statistical analysis cannot be claimed, the results nevertheless showed at least the same pattern in each of the six events.  The USA’s red performance bar was in each case the lowest. Montana’s blue performance bar was always higher than the USA’s.  Moreover, Swan River School’s green performance bar was higher than Montana’s and near or surpassing the the black performance bar representing the world’s top nations. We can thus conclude that the quality of education in Montana was very good among US states. We can further conclude that within Montana, Swan River School’s education was also very good.  Based on those results, it is possible to suggest that if Swan River School had been the USA’s delegation in the competition, our Warriors might have brought home four gold medals out of the six events. Outstanding!

Even though those events were only in three subjects and two grade levels, it is a great credit to all our teachers, staff, families and community–and not just in 2012, but throughout the many years before and since.  In this same vein, Swan River School met the increasingly rigorous No Child Left Behind expectations for standardized test achievement for ten consecutive years–a remarkable accomplishment, which had been thought to be unattainable.  It is also worth noting that several other schools in our valley likewise achieved that same status and recognition, and we feel honored to work alongside them and appreciate their high standards for education.

Aggregated Standardized Test Achievement Scores

The sample size for our school is no doubt very small in comparison to whatever the sample size may have been for the other states and nations that participated in those standardized tests.  The reality is, our school is so small that we generally do not talk in terms of numbers, because one student in a typically sized classroom for us represents about 6% of the total class. That 6%, or one student, is probably enough, in these analyses, to make the difference between first place and tenth place in the final standings.  Hence, when we talk about student achievement at our school, the truth is we talk in terms of individual students rather than percentages.

The final conclusion, therefore, is great education happens at Swan River School!  Our teachers deliver high quality instruction.  Our students work hard at their learning.  Our parents and families do much good in promoting the value of education.  It is claim backed by the evidence presented in this educational Olympiad.

Now what?  Do we rest on our laurels?  Of course not.  To us is presented the challenge of taking what is already a great school and figuring out how to make it even better.  Furthermore, with the departure from NCLB and its exclusive emphasis on standardized test results, and with the implementation of its replacement, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states and local schools are empowered to redefine success and achievement in education.

At Swan River School, we embrace this challenge.