Posted by: waikatogifted | June 2, 2011

Replying to Hon. Sue Moroney

Sue Moroney was the first Member of Parliament to blog on giftedness in the lead-up to Gifted Awareness Week. By the time the longer posts had come through moderation, they were swamped by shorter posts which had displayed upon posting, so I am repeating my reply here:

Hello Sue,

I believe that statewide standardized testing has the potential to be a great tool, but I do see problems with the current implementation of it, just as you do. It is useful for teachers to know whether they are achieving as much as colleagues in other schools. I’m sure all teachers aim to do so. Unfortunately, statewide testing systems are rarely designed to yield rich data that informs further teaching. What is more, there is often one point of focus that is deemed to be the pass/fail point, whatever it is called, and that is the level at which curriculum delivery is targeted, at the expense of students at every other point on the test score bell curve.

The Australian ICAS assessments seem to get around many of these problems, with distinctions and high distinctions rewarding many gifted children for their efforts, and with useful data to inform teaching being obtained. I haven’t seen a low score on one of these tests, as they tend to only be offered to bright and gifted students in New Zealand schools as an optional extra, but I have the impression that there is not a failing grade as such, although a centile ranking is given which would highlight any problems and their significance. To be useful, statewide standardized testing needs to cover more of these bases.

Then there is the question of what we do with the children who we identify as gifted through standardized testing (while not forgetting that many will be identified in other ways). We don’t have a statewide standardized response, nor anything remotely like it, to high achievement in any of the tests we currently use. While there are many possible courses of action, there is little money. One of the most cost-effective courses of action is grade-skipping for the brightest – those who will still be well above average in the receiving class. However, while it saves the nation the cost of educating a student for an entire year of his or her schooling, at the school level the economics are different. The school loses the funding of one student for one whole year, so they are understandably reluctant to consider this course of action. This is another issue that begs more thinking about.

Mary St George.

If you have a reply to Sue, do put it on her blog post, where she will have the best opportunity to read it, but feel welcome to add comments here as well.

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