Standardizing Intelligence

Ran across this interesting article about a new book, “Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined” by Scott Barry Kaufman.

I’ve only read the article (not the whole book) and am intrigued to read the book.

My only concern is the continued attack on “giftedness.” Having been active in supporting gifted learners, I am concerned (and disagree) with the concept that “all students are gifted.” Without reading the book, I agree with Kaufman that all students can achieve greatness, and definitely that society measures intelligence in only one way (more on that later.) However, I am concerned about not meeting the needs of kids who do measure gifted in the traditional manner. These kids have a different learning style that needs to be addressed/met in order for these kids to be able to achieve their potential. They need to be able to move quickly, learn deeply. It is an ongoing concern with the label “gifted.” I do wish there was a term that better defined this learning style.

Standardized Tests

That said, I agree wholeheartedly with the rest of this article. Why do we define intelligence based solely on test scores? Why are we such a text based society? Why isn’t intelligence in other areas valued in a similar manner?

…traditional metrics of intelligence are misguided and may even be detrimental to learning and development.

I see this all the time with my daughter. She struggles with tests and with “traditional” learning settings. Yet, allow her to express her knowledge in an appropriate setting, and she shines. Let her make a video,  write a short skit, give a speech – and her intelligence, communication skills, creativity and critical thinking skills shine.  Make her take a multiple choice test? Not so much.

I have had a couple of her teachers comment in the last few years about how she does on these types of projects. The engagement we see at home for these types of assessments is clearly different than what we see for multiple choice tests. In the long run, which skill set is more important? You know what I think….

Yet, she is being defined by these tests, and we see an increasing impact on her self-esteem and image. This is not to deter from the kids who do well on these tests. I just wish there was another measure that was valid. 

Kaufman says it better:

I am against standardizing minds and ignoring the fact that there are multiple paths to the same outcome and that engagement is an extremely important aspect of the equation.

As I’ve blogged before, my daughter’s school uses the exact same tests over and over and over again. Tests must be standardized so that all kids have the exact same assessment. Guess what, kids aren’t standard, nor are they the exact same.

I heard an anecdotal story about a teacher who allowed students to come up with their own project to express their learning. A parent complained because her student got a “B” and now this teacher isn’t allowed to do these types of assessments. Now he has to do tests. 

At the recent ISTE conference, I sat next to a high school teacher from St. Louis. As Adam Bellow showed his awesome video about shredding Scantron tests, he told me that his school got rid of their Scantron tests three years ago. Best move ever, he said.

Solutions

Kaufman is pretty clear about his solution – project based learning:

… allow students to express their knowledge of the material on their own terms, in their own unique voice, and at their own pace, I think we’d be setting up all students for the future much better, including those students we label gifted now.

No way this is going to happen at my daughter’s school. I’m not sure what the solution is for us, given she has two years left. My son will not be attending this school. 

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