Monday, June 1, 2009

Testing roundup

Today AJ finished what I believe is the last standardized testing for the year. Since this time last year, AJ has taken the KTEA-I (Kaufman Test of Eductaional Achievement, 2nd edition, brief form), KBIT-2 (Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test Second Edition), CTD Inventory (Center for Talent Development, Northwestern University), the Gates-McGintie Reading Test, the Darrell Morris Developmental Spelling Test, the ISEL (Illinois Snapshots of Early Literacy), the OLSAT (Otis-Lennon School AbilityTest), WISC-IV (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fourth Edition), and ITBS (Iowa Tests of Basic Skills). Hard to believe at this point that I was, not all that long ago, testing averse.

Why am I no longer testing averse? It comes down to circumstances. I don’t see the point in intelligence testing for children unless you are trying to accomplish something – get into a program, get services needed at school, etc. And while I hate seeing schools teaching to the test, as a teacher, I also know the value of good student evaluation. It helps a lot to know what your students are getting and not getting. I love giving tests because it gives me a ton of information (I still hate writing and grading them, though. Well, not hate, exactly. More like resent the time they take.)

Of the tests above the first three (KTEA-I, KBIT-II & CTD) were administered in a single one-hour session. We elected and paid for that one to get AJ into a summer program that, ironically, we ended up not doing because of the test – we discovered just how awful the commute would be when driving there. The WISC-IV was the only other one that we elected, and that was to get AJ into the gifted program after a subpar showing on the OLSAT. All the rest of the tests were administered by AJ’s school. I’m thinking his file is going to need its own cabinet by the time he graduates.

But tests are designed to accomplish something. If you are just fishing for information, I don’t think you’ll get your money’s worth. You need to know what you need to know.

Then there’s the issue of the IQ number. We’ve deliberated about this. My feeling is that no one should know his own IQ. It can limit you or intimidate you when really, the number is a description (and not a very nuanced one at that) of a moment in time. It’s not a solution to anything.

AJ wants to know what his IQ is. I can understand the frustration of having someone know something about you that you don’t know. It’s why I wanted to know, when I was pregnant with AJ, whether he was a boy or a girl. I didn’t like the idea of my doctor having information that I didn’t. But in this case, I can’t see anything good that can come out of him knowing the number. He could brag about it. He could feel like he’s not living up to it. He could even be disappointed by it. Right now, it could be anything. And moreover, since he hit the test ceiling, we don’t even know for sure what that number is. We could sign him up for more testing, but what is the point? We know what we need to know.

But I didn’t like the idea of holding out on AJ. So I told him that I’d tell him what it is on the day he graduates from college. I plan to stick to my side of the bargain. But only if he remembers to ask me.

We are all looking forward to a break from testing for the summer. Now we just have to wait for the rest of the scores to come in.

What about you? What are your thoughts on testing? Where do you stand?


My Kids' Mom said...

I guess I believe they're a necessary evil. I know that state programs (well, private too I guess) need data to label, enroll, compare, evaluate.... I took lots of data on the children I taught- they learned so little so slowly that you had to take data to prove they'd made progress. But I also think our schools trust in those numbers too much. If teachers are merit-paid, they'll rely on student progress to evaluate the teachers. Not sure how I would fit into that sort of program. Our schools are expected to show improvement EVERY year- huh? Only in Lake Woebegone....

Fern said...

From the perspective of someone who works with children with learning disabilities, I think testing definitely has it's place. First, for the reason you mention, placement into appropriate school programs. Additionally, for kids with unusual learning profiles, it can be extremely helpful for parents, teachers, and the kids themselves, to have in-depth information about that profile.

I think you're right about waiting to tell AJ his IQ score. I don't know mine or my son's so I can't speak to the impact knowing would have, but I agree that there seems to a potential for either self-imposed pressure or decreased expectations in knowing (or both!). Besides, there are so many other factors in becoming a happy and successful adult.

LSM said...

Well, I think you already know my perspective on testing. As far as telling kids their IQ scores, I believe in avoiding specifics for as long as possible. My kids who are "identified" as gifted know because they are old enough to see how school placement works. But I've never shared the specific numbers. I don't really see how that helps, and I agree that it's not something that an elementary-aged child likely has the ability to handle appropriately with peers.

Jeanne said...

I finally caved and told Walker his IQ score, rounded to the nearest ten. It's not like it's going to change the way he relates to his peers, and he knows that it's merely one score on one test, and if he took the test again, the score would probably be different. There's little point in letting a smart kid get too much ego involved in test scores. Or too much mystery, I finally decided.

We've always been a bit scornful of the "reading level" scores our kids came home with, pointing out that Victorian-era children were reading Dickens at the point that American children are described as reading at an "twelfth-grade level" when they're in sixth grade.

Harriet said...

I may change my mind about the IQ score at a later date if I thought his knowing it would do some good, but at the moment, I don't think AJ is mature enough to keep his mouth shut about it or to have a real understanding of what it means. As long as he doesn't know the number, it could be anything. And in fact, we don't have an exact number either, since he hit the test ceiling. We did tell him his score was high enough that he should be in the gifted program. I thought that was all he needed to know at the moment. We also emphasized that being smart only does good if you put that brain to work. I want him to think of his abilities as endless possibilities. At the moment, at least, I don't see how numbers could help that. But in a different situation, and at a different age, I might feel differently.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any philosophy on testing but I can tell you that my mom, in a fit over my sudden lack of interest in school, told me my IQ when I was about 14. It had an unfortunate effect on me - which was to make me think that if I was that smart, I REALLY didn't need to pay attention at school. I eventually came around and brought my grades back up. I must also say that as an adult, having knowledge of my IQ scores mostly makes me feel like a complete failure.