New Guide Helps School Officials Communicate Test Results

By National School Public Relations Association

Helping parents and your community understand student assessments and test scores is a recurring challenge--and dreaded exercise--for most educators. 

The National School Public Relations Association has just released Communication Planning and Strategic Tactics for Releasing High-Stakes Test Scores, published by NSPRA through a grant from the Learning First Alliance (LFA) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This new guidebook was developed to assist school leaders in releasing high-stakes test scores and explaining those results as well as the need for such tests to parents and their communities.

NSPRA taps four veteran public relations professionals to answer questions on the release of a district’s test scores. Topics include strategies for releasing scores to staff and parents; results when taking a new test; dealing with testing challenges; PR principles on releasing test scores; and comparing your districts’ scores with others.

The guide emphasizes the importance of giving staff and parents clear and concise information and explaining it in context—for example, what does a score mean and how it will be used to evaluate student progress. If scores are not good, school leaders should be ready to explain a clear path forward.

Principals and school leaders should be equipped to help teachers and other staff explain the results to parents and the community.

The timing of release is also important, as state agencies are under pressure to release scores to the media. School district officials, though, need to be out first with the news. The guide recommends district leaders call a meeting with principals as soon as the scores are available, and give them their results and a “cheat sheet” to help communicate the news. the supervisors tell teachers directly about the results and how those results will be used to evaluate their performance, their school and the district.

The guide recommends:

  • Employees, superintendents, and school board members should not read or hear anything in the news that hasn’t been shared with them first.
  • Roll out messaging internally first. Start with the Cabinet; follow with principals, faculty and staff members, all employees, the Board, and then parents.
  • Then share information with the news media next, followed by social media.

The second section includes a planning guide dealing with testing issues, and covers the areas of research, framing messages, creating understandable analogies, setting strategies, and the need to avoid a cookie-cutter approach. This informative section was written by Edward H. Moore, APR, an educational communications counselor with more than 25 years’ experience, former NSPRA Associate Director and the author of more than 3 books on school public relations.

Other issues addressed are strategic tactics to use when parents or others challenge tests, advice on comparing test scores with other school districts, how to build trust, messaging strategies, and using research to bolster your case.

The guide is available for free at NSPRA’s website:

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