You've decided to buy stock in a company. What do you do? Get a copy of the net profit for one year and then buy the stock?

Most potential stockholders wouldn't want to risk their money on one small piece of information. The prudent stockholder would research the market and examine a number of factors before purchasing stock.Steven Bossert, chairman of the University of Utah department of educational administration, uses this example when describing the ever-increasing reliance on standardized testing to assess what's happening in the schools.

"Tests scores show only a very narrow picture of what kids do in school," he said.

So, how can a parent judge the performance of a child or school? Bossert and other educators suggested several ways:

Talk to the teacher

Teachers possess a wealth of information. Are there patterns in your child's performance? What does the teacher rate as your child's strengths and weaknesses? What are the teacher's expectations for your child? Do they match your own? What are you and the teacher doing to help the child meet those expectations?

Talk to your child

What are his feelings about school? Is he challenged? Does he feel pressured? Does he bring home studies or, if he is in kindergarten, does he bring home many completed papers and artwork? Can he concentrate on a problem and think it through?

Visit the school

Are the teachers enthusiastic about their jobs? Does the principal know what's happening in the school? What is the school's philosophy of education? Is the library adequate? Does the school have the necessary equipment and supplies? How active is the PTA?

Trace your child's progress over time

Are there trends developing from your child's performance on standardized tests? Be sure to determine if there are differences in tests.

Ask your child to write a two- or three-page essay

Superintendent John W. Bennion of the Salt Lake School District said you can find out a lot more about a youngster by having him write a spontaneous essay than from the score of a multiple-choice test. In the essay, you will be able to gauge how a child reasons, as well as his use of spelling and grammar.