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 Assessment.org (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.
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