Thursday, February 4, 2016

When Testing Season is Upon Us

Okay, parents. Here's the thing I hope someone's told you before now: No test can prove how smart your kid is. No, not one. Not even an IQ test can assure you beyond a shadow of a doubt that your child is the most intelligent, entrepreneurial oriented, destined-for-indefinite-financial-security, beautiful and unique snowflake of a child.

Tests only measure what they can assess. They're only as accurate an assessment as the conditions under which they were taken, the mood of each individual student, the thoroughness of the committee who put the test together, the clarity of the language, the diversity of the demographics effectively targeted by the test writers, the anxiety level of each individual student on the testing day. That's a very long way to say that tests are only tests: they're not infallible measurements of who our kids are or will be.

It's totally natural for students and parents alike to have testing worries this time of year. These tests will sometimes determine if our kids get into "good" schools, if they get scholarships, if they are promoted to the next grade or retained, etc. Similarly, it's natural for teachers to feel pressure: to prove the effectiveness of their lesson plans, to earn more money (should they happen to find themselves in an incentive pay situation), to generally validate the goodness of the work they do.

But a test can't do any of this. All a test can do is indicate some general areas of strength and weakness. It can't answer all our questions about our babies: are they normal? are they slow? are they exceptionally bright like we suspect they must be? are they caught up yet from that one year with that one teacher who taught them who knows what?

No test can answer all these questions definitively, and truly, neither can any teacher. Tests should be used as one tool to assess our kids, not as the only way to know if they're smart. The best any test can do is to act as a ruler, in the same way a ruler would measure your child's height at the doctor's office. If that ruler indicated your child was a bit small or large for his age, it may indicate that a change in diet or sleep was needed, or it may indicate over time that your child is more than likely to remain at or around a certain height based on his or her genes. No way would a one-time measurement of your child's height raise so many red flags for the pediatrician that your child would be labeled with a genetic abnormality, diagnosed with a disease, or forced to remain in a class with other kids his size while other kids his age moved on because they were taller.

In other words, no test can measure your kid's worth. You know your kid's worth. Your kid is worth more than all the tests in all the world. Amen.

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