Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Testing, testing and more testing

AJ had his WISC testing yesterday, which I've written about more anecdotally here. AJ took the WISC-IV and got a score clearly in the gifted range. Even better, he had a great time. It was as if a switch was flipped and his brain went into high gear afterwards. He's been extra fun to be around ever since.

I dropped off the score sheets at AJ's school right when school let out at 3:15. Within 30 minutes, I received an email from the gifted teacher saying she wanted to schedule AJ for Iowa testing. This meant that AJ's WISC scores were substituted for the anomalous OLSAT scores. One more battle completed. One more round of testing to go.

I didn't realize from talking to anyone -- not the gifted teacher, nor the classroom teacher, nor the principal, nor the curriculum director -- that there was another round of testing for identification. Although, I'm not entirely surprised, as the gifted teacher had said something about Iowa testing next year if he qualified. If I'd know that there was another round, I would have pushed for him to do Iowa testing (also known as ITBS or Iowa Test of Basic Skills) at the school earlier.

The ITBS is an achievement test, rather than an aptitude test like the OLSAT. Most schools we've investigated seem to use a combination of aptitude and achievement testing for gifted identification. AJ's school district gives all students the OLSAT in second grade and then pulls those students whose OLSAT scores qualify them for the program and adminsters the ITBS only to them. When I was a kid, everyone took the ITBS. The achievement tests that AJ's school administers to everyone are much less comprehensive. I'm sure that the decision to do it this way is all about economics.

I am slightly nervous for AJ taking the ITBS because, like the OLSAT, it is a color-the-bubble test. It is an "off level" test (or, at least, that's the way AJ's school does it), which means some of the questions will probably deal with concepts AJ doesn't know. But AJ has traditionally done well on these types of tests. And since the rest of the identified kids have already taken the test, AJ will be in a room by himself with the gifted teacher, so there will be fewer distractions than usual -- probably best for him. There are a few sample pages available on the web, which I plan to show him, just to give him an idea of what to expect, and I will prep him for the procedures, including telling him that some of the questions will probably be about things he hasn't learned yet. But I don't plan to do much. My goal is to make him comfortable in the testing room, to to help him cram.

AJ's testing will take place over the next two weeks. Thanks to his alert classroom teacher, who let us know about the OLSAT problem as soon as she knew herself, we were able to work both within the school system and also to acquire independent outside testing in time to get the ITBS done before the end of the school year. I have already written to tell her how very grateful we are for her help. As hard as this process has been, is, I feel we have been very lucky with our teachers.

But our schools, like the rest of the country, are suffering financially. Yesterday, an article appeared in the local paper quoting our district superintendent saying that they are looking at closing another school next year as one way to balance the budget. Our classes are already 26 students and up, even in kindergarten. The rooms aren't even big enough to hold any more students. So while one battle appears to be winding down, another one is just beginning. There are more letters to write.

I'm still working on post of general advice for effective public school advocacy. Additionally, the psychologist who administered AJ's WISC test gave us a 25 page resource guide for parents of gifted children, including organizations, support groups, publications and websites. Some of these are local for us, but some are national. I plan on investigating as many as I can over the coming weeks and writing about them here, so stay tuned!


Katie said...

Coming from Iowa, we took the ITBS all the time, as well as taking the ITEDs in high school.

They are fun tests; I loved taking them. The science part, which was mostly graphs, was something school had not prepared me for, but it was always easy to figure out. The math usually puzzled me because while I might have been able to solve a practical application, I didn't know the formal symbols. My math scores were always my lowest, but they were still high. You've always described AJ's math skills as being much stronger than I remember mine at his age.

You've said that he stumbles because he sees ways to make other answers the right ones, right? My Dad always used to tell me that on bubble tests, there was only one answer, and that I knew the answer; all I had to do was fill it in. If AJ's giving all the answers equal weight and validity, he might be reverse engineering a way that they could fit and going with the method he's decided appeals to him best.

From what you write about him, he sounds like his way of thinking is one that's open to infinite possibilities. If he's also a problem solver, it sounds to me like this could be what's not working for him about testing.

Just a thought- may not apply to him at all, but it's something that occurred to me. Best of luck to you both!

Harriet said...

I don't think they'll be giving him the Science part -- it sounds like they're just doing the reading and math sections. Which is too bad, actually, because I think he'd probably have a blast with the science part. The thing I'm not sure about, which will make all the difference, is whether the questions are read out loud (as they were with the OLSAT) or if he gets to read them himself. He does better if he doesn't have to rely on hearing something without having something to look at -- as would I. It helps to be able to check back. And from what I've read, his grade is right on the edge of the switch into student-read problems. I'm hoping, since they said that it was an off-level test, that it will be student read. I think you're absolutely right about what's going through his head. And I remember doing the same thing too. If things seem too obvious, he sometimes looks for something more complicated. We'll practice that kind of thing a little at home, so he knows how to make good choices. But from the questions I've seen, I think he's probably going to have fun. Although probably not as much fun as he had yesterday.