Not letting exams decide our fate

Back when my boys were little, I embraced a child-led learning approach to our homeschooling. Our days were pretty fluid and I wasn’t worried about grades or formal assessments. I saw no need to quiz a 6 year old on math facts. Learning was joy and I didn’t want to mess with that.

My homeschool philosophy was molded, in part, by my own childhood.

Back when I was a little girl, I was a pretty horrible test taker. I generally missed cut-offs by a few points and was usually told I wasn’t as smart as people thought.

Somehow, though, I managed to qualify to take the SAT test as part of Johns Hopkins’ brand new study on gifted children. It was either 1980 or ’81 and I just broke the double-digit age range. If I had scored 700 on the math or verbal portion, I would have been ear-marked precocious and my life path would have taken an entirely different course.

My spectacular failure in missing the cut off by more than a couple hundred points caused great disappointment in loads of people. Feelings of shame haunted me for years. By the time I graduated high school, I came to despise tests and everything they represented.

So, when I saw this spoken-word piece, it touched me deeply.

The irony of my life, I suppose, is that my job now entails administering tests to kids. I love my work because I accept the solemn faith that parents place in me to help them better understand their children. Together – the parent, the child, and myself – we can figure out strengths, weaknesses, and what can work best to help a child thrive and grow.

Today, I appreciate the need for well formed assessments that help us understand what kids know. Grades and tests have a place in our education models, as long as they are not used to absolutely define a child.

Sulibreezy, the spoken-word artist, says it best:

“Test us with tests but the finals are not final because they never prepare us for the bigger test, which is survival.”

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