Earlier this school year I received T-One’s NJ ASK scores which test elementary school age children in NJ in language arts and math. The scores are grouped into three categories: “partially proficient” (which is just a pc way to say that the child scored below standard), “proficient” and “advanced proficient”. T-One scored at the upper end of the “proficient”. I must admit when I saw the scores I was both a little surprised and a little disappointed. The girl does so many things so well and things seem to come so naturally to her that it comes as a small shock when she’s deemed “average” at anything.
Of course as parents we think our kids are extraordinary at everything, both good and bad. In my mind, no kid is a better athlete than T-One, no kid is more creative than C-Thunda and no kids are more beautiful than either of them. There’s also the flip side. No kids get into more mischief or are as sassy or are as hair-grayingly maddening as my children. They are extraordinary in every way. But average they ain’t. At least, in my mind.
So when I opened the envelope containing T-One’s NJ ASK scores, I was a little baffled. How could T-One not have gotten a perfect score let alone a score in the higher category? I was taking her score personally as if the test makers somehow singled her out and purposely gave her questions she wasn’t prepared for. As irrational as that sounds, that’s how I felt. Knowing how standardized tests are used to essentially categorize and dissect young people into the intelligence haves and have-nots, I was defensive and a little angry. How dare they label her as merely average. They clearly must have lost their minds!
My own mind moved quickly to how those average scores would affect this not even close to average kid. Would she believe the hype thinking she was nothing special, just run of the mill? Would she be forever labeled? Would she be kept out of the proverbial reindeer games or worse, Harvard? My mind ran rampant. Even though I knew the real deal – that standardized test scores are BULLSHIT, it didn’t ease my worry at all. And it wasn’t long before my fears were realized.
Not long after I received the scores T-One’s school announced over the school’s loudspeaker that those children who scored highly on the NJ ASK would be invited to enter gifted and talented classes in language arts and math. T-One reported each child’s name was called in a (deservedly) congratulatory tone. Except, she explained, her name wasn’t among those called. I asked her how she felt about that and she said, “I felt dumb.” My heart sank. I tried to make her feel better about the situation but I wasn’t very persuasive.
T-One is definitely a competitor. She wants to be the best at what she does. But sometimes we (those that love her) have to help her with eliminating doubtful and negative self talk. Beyond helping her feel better about the situation was seeing what could be done about getting her into those classes. It doesn’t seem right to keep a bright kid from doing her best or being challenged to her utmost. I mean, there is no doubt she is “gifted and talented”, even by the state of NJ’s definition:
The regulations (N.J.A.C. 6A:8-3.1) define gifted and talented students as: Those students who possess or demonstrate high levels of ability, in one or more content areas, when compared to their chronological peers in the local district and who require modification of their educational program if they are to achieve in accordance with their capabilities.
It goes on to say that:
Local school districts must use multiple measures to identify students [as gifted and talented].
Wait a second. Multiple measures? Seems the school based their decision on a solitary measure and a inferior one at that. They didn’t take into consideration her near perfect performance in class, the 10 or so novels (yes, novels) she’s written, they didn’t consider that the work they send home is so easy for her she finishes it in less than 5 minutes most days, and that she does all while being committed to several after school activities along with the unfortunate inconvenience of being ushered between two homes. And they certainly didn’t account for her creativity and willingness to work hard. Seems to me this particular school district would go above and beyond to identify and nurture talent like T-One’s else risk perpetuating an already embarrassing and shameful condition.
Of course, there is the chance all this can be corrected by making the simple request she be invited to the classes. But I wanted to vent first. The whole ordeal had me wondering if she is really being challenged at her school or is she simply fading into the background. Getting lost in a sea of young faces. I hope that is not the case. In any regard, I will be counseling with the key folks of her school and making them aware of her gifts and talents they obviously overlooked.