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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Who's Keeping Score?

Awhile ago, I wrote about how my 3rd grade students had to take the dreaded, cumulative test called the NJ Ask. As a result, many of you wrote to me about your kids and the tests they had to take in whatever state you are from. In the end, there was a commonality amongst all of us: These tests suck.

What I didn't write about last time is that the NJ Ask isn't the only test the kids took. My students also had to take aptitude tests, known better to you and I as IQ tests. The main reason I didn't write about these tests at the time was because I was writing in reference to all my students were supposed to know but that they probably didn't. Unlike the NJ Ask, aptitude tests are not something you can study for. But while the results for the NJ Ask still remain unknown, the aptitude test scores came back recently.

Lucky for us, the test results delivery coincided with our grade level meeting for the month. This was the first time I had been in on a meeting where such a matter was openly discussed. We all received our perspective scores, some secretly, some others not so secretly, wishing to know how they measure up against the other third grade classes.

Let me just say I dread the time of score getting. I dreaded it as a child and I knew I'd dread it now. I dread it, because I feel for those kids. I know we tell our kids to try their best and that's all we ask, but big brother is watching more closely than you and I will ever know. It doesn't matter if you had a headache that day, forgot to eat breakfast or just broke up with your girlfriend. There are many, many people in the world who judge your worth based on standardized test scores. Just take it from a girl who was an A and B student all through high school, but didn't manage to break a 1000 on her SAT's.

IQ tests, to me, are no different. There are so many factors that go into the scoring of standardized tests. One big issue that has been continually brought up in my district is the bias these tests have against minority students. In fact, the bilingual classes in my district don't get to take a bilingual test, they just have an extra 15 minutes or so. Cause you know, if you were going to Spain, an extra 15 minutes of time would be all you need to express yourself perfectly.

The good news is the third grade classes were more or less on the same page. I believe the average for the grade was about a 104. The average for my class was a 99. The lowest IQ I had was 83, the highest, 119.

Now I'll admit it, I didn't even really know what a good IQ was. But I learned, quickly what it was based on my district's standards. Our principal said that anyone who had a 120 or above should be seriously considered as a candidate for G & T next year. G & T is the gifted and talented class. In a district like the one where I work, G & T is not true G & T. We don't have a hell of a lot of overachievers or high scorers. Why is a study that quite simply, hasn't been written yet. But when I say G & T in a district like mine it more often stands for "good and tame" than "gifted and talented."

Now here's proof. There are currently two G & T classes in third grade. One teacher did not have any student score higher than a 119, if not lower. The other teacher had a few in there 120's, but so did a few other regular ed teachers. More proof that placement is not an exact science.

Which brings me back to my principal's comment: Anyone who has 120 or above should be seriously considered as a candidate for G & T next year. So does that mean my two students with 119 should be considered by those standards or that they just missed the mark? And how does a year's worth of work figure into the process? Ok, so these two students might be my highest scorers, but does that really mean they are necessarily my highest achievers? Because everything I've seen this year doesn't indicate so. Sure, maybe if they were pushed. But then you mean to tell me I should recommend these two students on the hopes they will live up to their "potential" while I'd have to tell other kids that have busted their ass all year, now deemed "just average" sorry, but thanks for playing?

That just doesn't seem right to me.

On the other end of the spectrum, retention recommendations are also around the corner. My principal doesn't really like to retain anyone so you have to make a very good argument for doing so. But does any of it really matter if everything hinges on one or two test scores?

In defense of my principal, it is not entirely her fault. She, like us, are just part of a bigger system that makes standards that we all have to measure up to. But there's a serious danger in doing this that the men in suits are too far removed from to understand. I am a firm believer that a person's potential is not in direct correalation with their standardized test scores or even regular 'ol test scores. Instead it is in the things that are immeasurable, but observable. I mean didn't they think Albert Einstein was retarded at one point? Who made that genius decision and more importantly, what was their IQ?:)

I think a lot of factors feed into success: opportunity for one, desire for another. Many of the kids in my class, are unfortunately, part of a system that isn't really built for them. Third grade assessments are just the tip of the iceberg. Not to get all Whitney Houston, I believe the children are our future on you, but I tell these kids all the time that they can be whatever they want to be and I believe it. Do I think it's going to be easy for them? Of course not. But no piece of paper is going to tell me otherwise.

But don't take my word for it. I'm just another sometimes poor standardized test scorer who didn't amount to anything.



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