That is, why did we choose to have our then 6-year-old daughter take a battery of tests to assess her IQ and approximate grade level in various subjects? And what good does it do us now?
It’s great question, and since I never planned on doing such a thing until I found myself doing it, I can understand why people ask it. Someone asked it on a local gifted e-list I’m on, and this is a version of my response. (Sorry if some parts of the story are familiar!)
We hadn’t thought of doing an assessment until we found that our daughter’s first grade teacher seemed determined to ignore us. We thought we were bringing her useful information about what our daughter already knew, but she seemed sure that we were demanding parents with an inflated opinion of our daughter’s intelligence. (Ironically, that is part of why we hadn’t thought of doing any assessments earlier — I was so concerned that our daughter’s obvious “advanced abilities” would indict me as a hothousing, pushy parent.) The teacher told us that when kids say they are bored, often things are too hard for them. . . oh, I could go on and on!
We tested with a local psychologist who specialized in working with gifted kids. I was worried that my daughter would be uncomfortable with what turned out to be hours and hours of testing, but she actually enjoyed herself, even as a 6 year old. It is embarrassing to say so, but one of the first benefits of the assessment was that I did not feel as crazy. That’s a lot of money to spend to feel sane, but honestly I was so determined to respect the teacher and the school and not act like one of “those” parents that I was starting to think I was wrong about my daughter.
The information proved to be much less helpful with the school than I had hoped. When we discussed a grade skip, our principal said, “I know she’s advanced in reading and writing, I don’t care about that. They have to be advanced in math.” When the achievement tests demonstrated that she was able to do work several grades above her current level in math, however, we still got no acceleration in math and a one-grade bump in other subjects.
The psychologist had already told us that a one-grade skip was really not going to be helpful in this case, and boy was that true! When Violet figured out that 2nd grade was really no different from 1st grade, her behavior took a nose dive, and we were at our wit’s end.
So the immediate educational benefit of our assessment was not that it got us any further with the school, but that it gave us the confidence to pull her from school and start homeschooling. We were ready to trust our own judgement and act accordingly. (I do hold out hope that test numbers will help someday if we stop homeschooling, however. We continue to do above level testing through talent search.) Had homeschooling not been an option, it would have spurred us to take some other action, rather than let her sit and suffer because I didn’t want to look like a demanding parent or ruffle any feathers with teachers or friends. I can’t really reflect on my reticence up to that point with any pride.
If we had not done those assessments, not only would I have been unable to get *any* movement from the school, but I suspect I would not have tried so hard. I really had no concept of how out of place she was.
Along those lines, the assessments helped us understand *why* school wasn’t working. Like many parents of gifted children, my husband and I are bright people. We work in competitive professions with bright people, went to selective colleges with bright people, and so tend to have friends who are bright people with bright kids. I skipped two grades and graduated college early before going to a competitive grad school program, where I felt outclassed by geniuses at every turn. Of course from my perspective, I am nothing special, neither is my social circle, and neither are my kids.
Numbers really help in this regard — they provide a good reality check that says yep, my kid really is measurably, significantly different in some respects and so needs some significantly different things in some respects. I am less likely to underestimate what she is really capable of, which matters when I am the one in charge of her curriculum. When she seems resistant and listless, 4 out of 5 times it’s because she’s underchallenged. I don’t know if I would understand that without having good assessments, and having done the subsequent research about kids like her, and it has made a tremendous difference in successful homeschooling.
They also help when people question what we’re doing. We don’t share a lot with “outsiders,” but I don’t like to lie either, and so we do get some flack when I mention something that is high school or college level. It’s good to be able to remind myself that the numbers, as well as my own observations, support what we’re doing.
Sorry to be so long winded. I guess the gist of what I’m saying is that the assessment went a long way in helping us to understand our child, trust our own understanding, and see where our own experiences distort our understanding. I also understand that plenty of people out there will still disapprove of such assessments and labels, to which I can only say “bully for you!” I needed more help.
Many parents and teachers need more help, and for them assessments are a good choice.
I should add that we have not done any assessments with Victoria, who is just now 6. We’ll do the Peabody with her in the fall just because that’s what we’ve done in the past to fulfill homeschool legal requirements, and we’ll see. I am starting to consider it just because I think I am guilty of underestimating this child, because she is not the same kind of learner I am and her sister is. I will probably wait at least another year to decide. We assessed the first time out of a sense of desperation, and thankfully we are not there now!
At least this has made me more sympathetic with teachers (except that one first grade teacher!) It is quite possible to love a child and watch her closely, and still not get just how gifted she is.