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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.
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July 2016


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