Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Test Fear

My very first day as a GT coordinator I was approached by an elementary teacher.  "I've known Josh for 4 years now," she said. "He's the brightest student I know, but every year I nominate him for the gifted program and every year he gets rejected.  Will it be any different now that you're in charge?" 

I assured her I'd look into it, but jumped to the (false) conclusion that Josh was a nice kid, a teacher pleaser, but probably not gifted.  When I met him my misconception was immediately apparent.  Beyond a doubt he was creatively brilliant.  The problem was that he froze when presented with a high stakes test like the one that determined if he was "in" or "out" of the gifted program.  

It was a no-brainer for me.  I trusted his teacher who knew that he needed challenges beyond the regular classroom. He was "in" without taking The Test.

I took some heat from people who had created the "sift down" method of identification matrix our district used at that time.   Students needed to perform at or above the 95 percentile on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  Those that didn't were never considered.  The winnowed group of  kids were given the Otis-Lennon group IQ test on which they also needed to score at a certain level.  Those that didn't were rejected.   And then the remaining few students had to rate a specific score (or better) on the Renzulli Scales completed by a teacher.  In essence, we were looking for the fewest possible students and only those who were good at taking tests and pleasing teachers. 

I'm happy to say we quickly changed the old ID process to a talent pool model where even one indicator was enough to start an assessment of what a student needed to be academically challenged.

Funny thing.  Six months after he was identified, Josh agreed to try The Tests . . . "just for fun."  The pressure was off.  IQ?  152.  ITBS reading and math?  99th percentiles. 

How many kids slog on through the tedium of a school day simply because they don't fit the numerical profile.  We've got to know the kid in order to match the program to the child.

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