Your Kid Might be a Genius, or Not
If there’s one thing I know, among several, it’s that kindergartens that give entrance exams are, more often than not, misguided. I’ve heard mothers (mostly mothers) who sit and yap in the bleachers about how gifted their kids are and all about the placement tests that so infallibly told them this. I’ve got news for these ladies. Those entrance exams and placement tests are crap. The experts know it and the administrators know it. Unfortunately they don’t have any other way of accepting students without appearing blatantly biased. They continue with the charade that these tests prove anything simply because, without them, entrance to these private kindergartens would be completely subjective and leave them open to lawsuits. To be fair, the prodigy level students are almost always selected accurately with intelligence tests. However, the simply gifted kids (there’s a big difference) are routinely either given false positives or false negatives on these tests.
The problem is simple. Kids’ brains grow at different rates, and these tests are, often times, administered only once before a lifetime of privilege is either bestowed or denied. According to a study done by Dr. David Lohman, published in the Journal for the Education of the Gifted, one third of the brightest third graders tested below average prior to kindergarten. Furthermore, in another study done at William & Mary, that looked at third, fourth, and fifth graders who placed into the gifted programs at kindergarten (and were still in the gifted program thanks to their original test scores), 12% of them had only “basic” abilities in Math. 30% of them scored only “proficient” in English. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement for the selection process. It is becoming clear that intelligence is not something that is static; it grows with each kid differently. Kids who appear gifted at kindergarten might just have developed faster at the start. That does not mean they will continue along the same trajectory. Likewise, some kids start of slowly and pick up speed as they age. The real problem is not the test itself, but the failure to retest throughout childhood, as many schools don’t.
Kids who get placed into gifted programs early are given a golden pass through the school system. Because educators believed, for so many years, that intelligence was unchanging, children, who shouldn’t have, got propelled through the system on education’s version of a bullet train. Others got put on the slow boat who should have been retested. If these occurrences were mere statistical anomalies, I would say it’s no big deal. But, the fact is that there is only a 40% correlation between the early placement intelligence test and later actual achievement (Dr. Hoi Suen, Penn State University). And, the results for gifted students are even worse. Dr. Lydia Spinelli and Dr Betty Baxter have uncovered that “over three-fourths of the variance in the SAT total score was traceable to factors other than early intelligence… .” That means that 75% of actually gifted students wouldn’t have been captured by early IQ testing and placement. The meaning of all this is clear. Gifted programs really do work in educating kids – they work really well. The problem is that the kids who are admitted are not necessarily the most deserving. The schooling is what is giving them their test scores, not their intelligence.
I’m so glad I home school my kids. Young kids routinely bomb intelligence tests and get undeserving relegation to a slower educational track. Then there are the children who either get coached or who develop quicker and who ace the test. They get shuttled into the fast track. Once they are in the gifted program they can, in many cases, stay there all the way through High School without anybody second guessing their aptitude. They get a better education and more opportunities. Their test results bear out that they score higher than other students. It’s too bad that there is little correlation between their early intelligence test and their later test scores. My kids will never have to deal with that. They get a superior education, and they never had to feel the stress of excelling at an early placement test for approval from dimwitted educators who wouldn’t know talent if it hit them in the face. My kids might be geniuses, but I don’t really care. All I care about is that I’m giving them a good education and that they’re learning. No test is going to stop me from giving them the best.