The learning and achievement "gap" in every family

CJ Westerberg, January 17, 2012 9:56 AM


Testing, one, two, three . . .

by C.J. Westerberg

Last week I had my annual doctor appointment.  The conversation steered toward the doctor's three children, ages 13 and up.   The oldest two attended a prestigious public magnet "math and science" high school and the doctor was concerned that his third child, an 8th grader, might not be eligible because in the doctor's words, "he's not a good test taker and you gotta be good at tests to get in."  He was actually more concerned about what conclusions the son may draw because the latter couldn't "make the grade" like his siblings did.

That just struck me.  Here is a family where both mom and dad are doctors.  Plenty of the right stuff environmentally and if you are into genetics, that too.  The doctor said his son has a giant personality and likes to build things but didn't do well on tests.  "How does one help motivate a child to do better on tests?" he asked me, but also added he wasn't sure he even wanted to stress the importance of testing because this son marched to a different drummer from his other children, and how this son may excel in ways his other children may not in the future.  The doctor further elaborated by saying his son was not lazy but wasn't interested in test-prep (curiously, he used the word test-prep).

Here is an achievement gap within one single family, a highly-educated one at that.
How often do we hear from parents the vast differences between each child academically and interest-wise?   Will this third son be viewed as "mediocre" or a "marginal" to the world because of his test scoring ability or for that matter, interest in his test scoring ability?

Then why do we continue to measure students one way?  What exactly defines a "top student?"
Maybe the way we assess students is a different form of children "left behind."

I'm not against tests as a form of assessment, just when they are the only form and increasingly high-stakes in nature.  A few alternatives of note:  Performance (check out student work here),  Deborah Meier's work, the High Tech High philosophy as work produced being a part of the overall student evaluation, or Big Picture Learning hour-long presentation about a topic they are interested in - aka passion-based learning), among others.  Do check out The Daily Riff's "Hacking School Ratings and Student Assessments" - a classic in this genre.
We'd also like to hear your suggestions as to better assessments - - -

The world has been honoring Steve Jobs this past week - a person who was fired from Apple the first time because of his "thinking different," his passion for what he cared about (who would guess how calligraphy would be a defining influence for his attention to detail?) and well, we all know the rest of the story.

posted 10/2011

Related posts The Daily Riff:

A "rising global army of freelancers."  Are students equipped for this world?

Two Families:  Two Different Paths to "Academic Excellence."  And the Winner is . . .

10 Steps for Smarter Schools

Passion-based High School

Hacking School Ratings and Student Assessments


blog comments powered by Disqus
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
Leonardo da Vinci
Follow The Daily Riff on Follow TDR on Twitter

find us on facebook


Cool Smart Teen: Changing the conversation about building stuff

SMW, 11.04.2013

Not just building an app to play with . . . but a test for cancer

Read Post | Comments

Riffing good stories innovation.jpg

Video: What is the link between "design-thinking" and creativity?

SMW, 11.03.2013

Creative Confidence: Must-Watch Interview on Charlie Rose

Read Post | Comments
early education.preschool.jpg

How Much Do Early Years Lead to Student Success?

CJ Westerberg, 11.03.2013

"The idea being that wasn't necessarily to create little engineers everywhere, though that would be great for us. The idea was to take advantage of the natural learning process and curiosity that children have at that age . . ." Tamika Lang, Boeing

Read Post | Comments

NEW: Weekend Reading

SMW, 11.03.2013

Looking for Intimacy in the Age of Facebook is a higher education course (yes, you heard right). Interestingly, social media may inhibit creativity and innovation

Read Post | Comments

The New Resume

SMW, 10.31.2013

A picture is worth a thousand words. A video game-like format is worth . . .

Read Post | Comments

Noam Chomsky: The Purpose of Education

CJ Westerberg, 10.31.2013

"Education is really aimed at helping students get to the point where they can learn on their own. . . "

Read Post | Comments

Noam Chomsky: In the news again, this time about Twitter and High Schoolers

SMW, 10.31.2013

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at MIT, "father of linguistics", political commentator.  From bio: "Besides his work in linguistics, Chomsky is internationally recognized as one of the most critically engaged public intellectuals alive today":               ...

Read Post | Comments

Choke: Test-taking - - - a different way to look at test-prep?

CJ Westerberg, 10.28.2013

"Most students will not find a steady diet of test-prep drills and worksheets to be particularly meaningful, and accordingly, they will not put forth optimal learning effort."

Read Post | Comments

Does your school have a beehive?

CJ Westerberg, 10.27.2013

"If we want children to be inventors, we have to give them opportunities to invent." - 5:00 mark, Mission Hill video

Read Post | Comments