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We met with Mrs. B the Spectrum (gifted) teacher yesterday and learned about Casper's testing. They have to score above a certain level in 3 of the 4 areas. They assume the kids will score in Motivation based on teacher recommendations, so that leaves Mental Ability (seems like a plain old IQ test), Achievement (we didn't see this test) and Creativity.

Casper scored in the 99th percentile in Achievement (only 59%ile in reading, not a surprise, but her overall score was 99%ile). In Mental Ability she scored 92%ile (cutoff is 96%ile) and Mrs. B gave her a second test hoping she would qualify on that one, but she got 87%ile (Mrs. B said that one is harder.) These tests are given in small groups, with the teacher reading the directions and the children filling in bubbles in a booklet. I had an IQ test for giftedness in 1st grade and remember taking it - it was one-on-one with a teacher, and there were hands-on things (like fitting shapes together). Mrs. B said spontaneously that for kids as young as K, bubble testing was not the best approach, and hands-on one-on-one would be better.

The Creativity test, which we saw, did not impress me at all. It was a booklet and Casper was asked to make pictures based on already existing lines or blots on the page. This was sent out to be scored. One of the things Mrs. Brown noted was that it was a timed test and you were partly judged on how much you completed (Casper's last section was less than half finished, and looking at it, it was so boring I know why). Casper scored in the 37%ile for creativity. So, the area in which I feel she is most unusual was the one she scored the worst in. I feel like this is pretty clearly a failure of standardized testing to adequately assess ability in this area.

For the future, she can be re-tested next December. Mrs. B has her as a 'Student of Promise' and tells me she has started doing pull-outs for that group on Fridays. The other option to petition her in to Spectrum would be to have her develop a portfolio of work and present it orally to the entire Board of Education, which I feel is pretty obviously not appropriate for her at this age!

Comparing myself to Casper, and mr. flea to Casper, in some ways she seems more like him. Even at a very early age, I was *devoted* to performing well for others, whereas Casper hates to be asked to show off what she can do. I have always found standardized tests of the IQ test and SAT and GRE logic test variety to be easy and even fun. While having the specialized kind of mind that allows one to do well on these tests is an advantage in life in some ways (i.e. I did well, though not stunningly, on the SATs with no prep and no stress), other kinds of mental and social skills that I lack have been a hindrance to me. And some of my "strengths" - like the ability to see what other people want from me and give it to them - while they have resulted in great success at school, have been weaknesses when it comes to other aspects of my life. I think I would be happier if I were less dependent on external motivation for success. mr. flea has actively struggled with standardized testing (though still doing above average), but look who has a PhD and who doesn't!

I'm not sure that Mrs. B sees the conflict between my understanding of gifted (performs well beyond the classwork and *learns differently*) and the state of GA's definition on paper and as it's playing out in Casper's school (which seems to be picking out bright kids from upper-middle class families who test well who might not be so unusual if they were in a classroom full of their socioeconomic peers). I am cynical enough to feel that part of the point of Spectrum in GA is to keep affluent parents of smart kids in the public schools, and not fleeing to private schools. I think this is one reason that Mrs. B is so eager to reassure us that Casper has a good chance of testing into Spectrum in the future (and also she's probably had to deal with angry entitled parents in the past).

So that's gifted. mr. flea is still struggling with his issues; that 87%ile really hit home with him as the way he always tested - at the top of average, but not quite good enough. I hope Casper is too young at this point to feel so judged by the process.

Date: 2009-03-31 01:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ste-noni.livejournal.com
I have always found standardized tests of the IQ test and SAT and GRE logic test variety to be easy and even fun.

This is so me. I have always loved standardized tests and Joe thinks I'm a freak for it.

I am very much enjoying reading about your (and other b.org parents) experiences with schools selection. My mom teaches in public school and I attended public school, so sending my kids to public schools is important to me. Having said that, them getting a good education is important too. I'm really bummed out that Colorado only has ONE public elementary bilingual school.

Date: 2009-03-31 03:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rivka.livejournal.com
As someone who is qualified to administer IQ tests, let me just say that they test the kids that way because it's cheap, not because it's valid. A valid assessment of anyone's IQ needs to come from an individual face-to-face testing experience with a psychologist. For a five-year-old that's, like, ten times as true.

I completely agree with you about gifted programs being used as a reward/bribe for upper-income families with high-achieving kids, rather than as an educational accommodation for kids who are unsuited to the regular classroom. And unfortunately, programs designed for that first category tend not to meet the needs of the second category very well.

Date: 2009-03-31 04:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] veejane.livejournal.com
You know, I don't remember being tested for anything gifty. I remember being sorted into the upper percentiles of split classes, and in the fifth grade they split out six of us from the top-third math class and made us do extra problems, but I have absolutely no memory of how anybody came to these conclusions.

I do recall that believing I was the Smartest Thing Evar turned up a serious hindrance when the smartness started getting granular and I discovered that my visual-spatial skills are for shit. It was dumbfounding for me to get into a higher-level math class and suddenly discover it just didn't come easily to me any more. Verbal, computational, analytical skills, yes; geometry, NSM.

Date: 2009-03-31 05:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] casperflea.livejournal.com
I think "tracking" often relied/s on teacher observation and existing testing frameworks. I can remember taking standardized bubble-tests in 1st grade in rural Maine (I was allowed to sit and read if I finished early, which I did) - standardized testing, for all it is emphasized now, isn't new. Actually although the tests are more high-stakes now and are taught-to in a way I don't have a sense that they were when I was a kid, they actually don't do any standardized testing at all prior to 3rd grade in both NC and GA. Which I think is good.

Date: 2009-04-01 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] larisa57.livejournal.com
I had the same problem with linear algebra in college. It was the first time that I ever had to actually study math, and I had no idea how to do it. Everything before, I'd always just understood it the first time the teacher explained it in class. (And it didn't help when I'd get stressed out and call home crying to my mother about how I couldn't do it, and she'd reply, confused, "But you're good at math.")

Date: 2009-03-31 04:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mearagrrl.livejournal.com
It's totally interesting to read this stuff. And I, too, am a freak who enjoys taking stuff like the SAT (ooh, will they have words on the verbal section that I flat out DON"T KNOW? (Usually not. Sometimes ones that I don't know how to answer, but not that I've never seen before).

Date: 2009-03-31 10:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] askye.livejournal.com
That testing sounds like it's picking out who is the best at taking tests not who is the most gifted. And also sounds like they are trying to keep costs down, which makes sense. Is there an IQ requirement, like if you had her independently tested with a REAL IQ test would they accept that?

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