With mandated state testing looming on our students’ horizon why focus only on test score results when there are so many other factors that are never reported such as those parents, teachers and students who give tireless energy for successful school achievement. Unfortunately, they are the unknowns, the unsung heroes lost in an aggregate of numbers called test scores. These unknowns are what I like to call the donut hole in test scores that are rarely if ever discussed?

For example, there is no mention of family dynamics such as divorce, separation and single parent homes that can affect not only student performance and test scores but also teaching and parental styles. Studies have shown that the emotional stress caused by disruptive family issues can delay student learning and even social development. Further, teachers can have in one class at least 50% of their students (national average) living in divorce, separated, or single parent and/or blended family homes. In fact, negative family dynamics is so powerful that teachers can usually predict a year in advance when parents are having marital problems simply by the child’s school performance. Regardless of such distractions, many parents, teachers and students persevere and still achieve high academic achievement, thanks to these unsung heroes or unknowns.

In addition, many students often live in two homes, spending three or four days a week in one home, the next three days in another home. For students, the switch of homes is each weekend or every other weekend with one or the other parent. Rather than critique this arrangement we should give praise to those parents who are simply trying to keep the family unit intact. Maintenance requires a tremendous amount of energy on all parties — different rules, different parenting styles, different stepparents and so forth. For all intensive purposes, many students still exhibit high school achievement regardless of such distractions, thanks in great part to teachers, parents and of course the effort by students that often goes unnoticed.

Economics (recession) can have a domino effect on school performance as well. For instance, when a parent loses a job, most often they lose financial stability, which creates added stress on themselves and the family. Furthermore, loss of a job can mean possible relocation of the family. This could affect the child’s school performance such as the loss of friends, his school and bonding with teachers. And, there is always the never mentioned factor of teacher stress over watching her students stress over family changes, and school transfers of students she has worked with closely for months, sometimes years.

Therefore, let’s give praise to parents, teachers and those students who, regardless of the circumstances or challenges, are successful in their school achievement; yet they never get the recognition they deserve because there is that donut hole in test scores that is rarely discussed.

Dr. David Sortino, a psychologist and current Director of Educational Strategies, a private consulting company catering to teachers, parents, and students. For additional articles you can go to Dr. Sortino’s blog: davidsortino.com or e-mail: davidsortino@comcast.net.