My favorite quote about testing is from Linda Silverman at the World Conference for Gifted and Talented Children in 2013, “Everyone dislikes the use of IQ tests for a variety of reasons, but mental tests proved the existence of gifted girls. “1 The use of IQ tests was originally to determine if men were mentally effective enough to go into the armed services. Their use in school systems was relegated more to special education, where students were placed in classrooms that had fewer students and a less challenging curriculum. I was trained in Preschool Special Education at Colonel Wolfe School in the University of Illinois Graduate Education Program from 1971-72. It was the first time I had ever seen a psychological test, and we were required to give several of the tests so that we would be acquainted with them. I was fascinated by them, because they did seem to show what students could and couldn’t do even though the scores were not necessarily valid because I was testing kids I knew in my personal life. I learned at that time that the tests were normed on a typical population, and that made them invalid for special ed or gifted populations. We use them anyway because they show how far kids are from the norm. I taught special education for three years, during which time I learned a lot about learning disabilities.
When my oldest was in second grade, he took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. He scored in the 50th percentile and I thought that seemed low, but I didn’t question it. Another parent called and had asked to teacher to retest. Fortunately, for me, that teacher included my son in the retest and he scored in the top of the 90th percentiles. After that, he was tested with the Slosson IQ test (which is not one of the more accurate tests) and was diagnosed as gifted. My second was in Kindergarten by then and had been reading for a year, so I figured he was gifted. My daughter came along 4 ½ years after him, and had held a pencil correctly at 12 months, so I guessed she had something going on, too.
Fast forward 5 years. I moved to be near my parents and my second child could not be placed in the self-contained gifted class without an IQ test. The principal had him tested the week after his father and I separated and we moved from a farm, so I’m guessing it was a low estimate, but he scored in the moderately gifted range. For those of you new to testing, this meant he was more than one standard deviation from the norm or clearly to the right on the bell curve. I was not particularly happy that the principal told me his score – it’s impossible to forget once you know – but it was similar to a score my dad had gotten from an uncle that was a special education professor. Both boys had scored 5 grade levels above their own in reading and math on the Iowa Test for Basic Skills, which was very intimidating for a parent who was doing her best to meet theirs needs, so I was grateful the new school district had appropriate placements for them. Both boys qualified for the super-accelerated math program, which allowed them to attend the high school in eighth grade.
My daughter did not qualify for the pull-out program in first grade (gifted on Tuesdays and Thursdays), but we were all adjusting to a major life change and that was fine with me. I had returned to special ed, and these tests became part of my life. I was never one to criticize the test results given to me by psychologists (by contract/law, we were to get them 3 days before the student started). They always had information that might have taken me months to discover on my own. It turned out it was a good thing I was in special education.
By third grade, my youngest child had been placed in the pull-out gifted program. Based on test scores, she was also placed in the self-contained gifted program in fifth and sixth grade. In sixth grade, my daughter’s teacher called. She had scored on the cusp between super-accelerated math and honors math and where did I think she should be placed? I had noticed some difficulties when she did her math homework. She could solve the math easily when I drew a picture, but she couldn’t remember how her teacher had explained it to her. It was enough for me to have her tested. She has asked me not to discuss the results with others. She has thrived and gone on for two Bachelor’s Degrees and is now getting a Master’s, because she has learned compensatory skills. Her brothers both have Bachelor’s Degrees as well. My grandchildren are home-schooled, untested and reading well above age level.
I am a person who is not opposed to testing, but was sorry I had to take the initiative with my daughter. Luckily, our health insurance did reimburse me for it, but I had to provide the results of the testing to them, which felt like an invasion of privacy. Fortunately, for me, my story has had a happy ending.