Letters to the Editor

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TACOMA: Don’t penalize top students

Letter by Janis M. Jensen, Tacoma on June 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm with 31 Comments »
June 30, 2011 5:26 pm

My granddaughter, who has always received top grades in her classes, just completed the sixth grade at Truman Middle School, earning straight As in all her “highly capable” classes. She has just been informed that she no longer qualifies for the “highly capable” classes because she didn’t do so well on her standardized tests.

Maybe she didn’t feel well that day, or maybe she freezes up during testing. As a mature and responsible student, she should be commended for her top grades, not penalized.

Which of our highly esteemed educators made this decision? No wonder the taxpayers are tired of funding education.

Leave a comment Comments → 31
  1. BigSwingingRichard says:

    Grades are meaningless.

    Standardized tests are the real determinant of capabilities. Best outcome: place your kid into a better school system.

    Try a placement test to get into a private school. This will confirm the results. I’d recommend private school, if not an option, go to UP or Puyallup.

  2. alindasue says:

    BigSwingRichard said, “…go to UP or Puyallup. ”

    Unfortunately, UP and Puyallup have to administer the same standardized tests.

    I do recommend that the young lady’s parents appeal the decision made by the school, since there appears to be enough evidence to indicate that the girls is in fact “highly capable”. Talk to her teachers. They may be able to provide documentation to help her case.

  3. bobcat1a says:

    “Talk to her teachers”??? I thought it was the teachers who were responsible for her terrible scores. Obviously, the teachers who gave her those top grades were just inflating grades so they wouldn’t have to work hard teaching her. She just needed better teachers (with lower pay). At least, that’s what many of the posters here believe.

  4. Janis M. Jensen, of Tacoma What it show you is what the teach in school is not the same on the “standardize test” (even though their no standardize teaching). By the way the only so called “changes” made to the wasl was the name. If your highly capable daughter can’t even pass it, then the majority of the rest of the parents need to worry!

  5. Some people are just better at tests. Kind of a measure of being able
    to out think the test creators.

  6. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Or, a metric vs your peers. More excuses.

  7. tree_guy says:

    It’s not the end of the world if a junior high school student fails at something. Perhaps this will motivate her to achieve even higher goals.

  8. She took the test. She didn’t make the cut. If she’s as mature and responsible as you claim that she is, then she get’s it.

    Janis, If you feel that your Granddaughter deserves the best education money can buy, and you feel that public education isn’t providing what she needs, than maybe her Grandparents should get out their checkbooks and fund that education for her.

  9. I find the number of grammatical errors in these posts about excelling in education both humorous and disheartening.

  10. Copper2Steel says:

    She’s in sixth grade. She has time to improve before grades start to “mean” something for her to get into college.

    Get her studying for the SATs!

  11. Copper2Steel says:

    Oops! She’s just starting the seventh grade… The rest of my previous post remains true, though!

  12. tree_guy says:

    find the number of grammatical errors in these posts about excelling in education both humorous and disheartening. sixate

    Read more: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/letters/2011/06/30/dont-penalize-top-students/#ixzz1QrjSZKqg

    Well, I kind of agree with you, but let’s keep in mind that the editing function on these letters to the editor blogs is disabled. I frequently see a spelling or grammatical error in my own postings, but have no way to correct it. I regret those and hope no one assumes I’m an uneducated person.

  13. One mistake or test can get a kid kicked out of a program even though she’s received all A’s? Appeal to her teachers. Her record in the program should stand by itself.

  14. itwasntmethistime says:

    I love standardized tests. They show, without a shadow of a doubt if the kid knows something or not. Grades are for the kids who know how to play the game, not for determining natural ability. Finally, the smart kids who are overlooked because the background they come from doesn’t focus on academics or expressing yourself intelligently get noticed. I had more than a few teachers who had yor final grade determined the minute you first walked into the classroom. Standardized tests are so fair it drives people crazy.

  15. tree_guy says:

    This situation reminds me a lot of the controversy surrounding affirmative action. The author of the letter wants a spot for her granddaughter in the gifted program even though tests have determined that she’s not really that gifted.

    Would grandma like it if the school would remove one deserving person from the gifted program to make room for her undeserving granddaughter?

    Yes or no?

  16. itwasntmethistime says:

    tree_guy — Actually, I think Grandma does think her granddaughter is gifted and the fault lies with the test, so she couldn’t answer your question as asked. Trouble is, which of us don’t think our little darlings are gifted? I’m 100% certain my children are brilliant, but I have a suspicion that the school is going to want a bit more empirical evidence than just my opinion.

  17. tree_guy says:

    “Actually, I think Grandma does think her granddaughter is gifted and the fault lies with the test,” itwasn’tmethistime

    Read more: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/letters/2011/06/30/dont-penalize-top-students/#ixzz1QruIvRUA

    Precisely! That’s exactly the reason that affirmative action was launched. There was widespread belief that some minority groups were gifted and deserving of academic credentials in spite of their inability to actually demonstrate any giftedness. There was a famous case in California involving a student (I think his name was Alan Bakke) who was denied admission to a college program and his spot was given to a minority with an inferior score. My history may be mixed up but I think this is what happened.

    My question for Grandma remains unanswered. Should someone be removed from the gifted program to make a spot for people with good grades but low admission scores?

  18. fatuous says:

    Grandma, if you are the legal guardian, you can request a test review with the administration.


  19. commoncents says:

    The only thing that Grandma needs to understand is that “gifted” does not equal advanced. The child who is able to read and do math at a grade level 2-3 years beyond his/her peers is not labeled as highly capable unless they can pass a test that measures creative thinking. Success is not limited to those who were creative thinkers at age 11. There will always be a need for those with advanced technical skills. That being said, the system as it is now is not geared towards allowing those who are advanced in their skills and learning to continue to remain so…they are drug back to the masses. To prevent this – the child’s parents must be vocal advocates to ensure their child receives either individualized learning plans OR is put into higher aged classrooms to remain challenged.

  20. itwasntmethistime says:

    commoncents — Yes, that is true. Skill level and natural ability are not the same.

  21. BigSwingingRichard says:

    Grandma, how many books will your granddaughter read this summer, how many times will you or her parents take her to a library. How many hours a day is a TV on in her house?

    How high is her motivation to succeed in school?

    These are the standards which she needs to meet to be in a highly capable program. PS – highly capable in public education is not that high, trust me, I know.

  22. alindasue says:

    I recommend that several of you go back and reread the letter. This is not a case of someone trying to get their child into the gifted program. This is a case of a child who was already doing well in advanced level gifted classes who got kicked out of the program based on nothing but the results of one standardized test.

    This is my biggest gripe about high stakes standardized testing. True learning is limited because teachers are forced to “teach to the test” in order for their students to move through the system. It’s very sad.

  23. Given that there are a limited number of spaces in gifted programs, and they are highly coveted, what basis would you use to decide who gets into the program and who gets to stay in the program, alindasue, if not standardized tests?

    As tree_guy pointed out, if this girl was allowed to stay in the program someone more qualified may not be admitted. The program needs to be fare to this girl but it also needs to be fare to all of the other students who qualify, as well.

  24. fare? oops!

  25. alindasue says:

    Polago said, “Given that there are a limited number of spaces in gifted programs, and they are highly coveted, what basis would you use to decide who gets into the program and who gets to stay in the program, alindasue, if not standardized tests?”

    Standardized tests tell a bit about what a student knows, but they rarely tell the whole picture. I could see using a test score as part of the criteria, but it should never be the whole criteria.

    Ms. Jensen’s granddaughter was already in the highly capable program based on other factors besides the standardized tests. No doubt her work in the normal classes was above level and she was doing extremely well in her classroom tests. (That’s how I got put into the advanced math class when I was her age, long before “standardized tests” or “highly capable” programs became normal.) Since she “always received top grades” in her classes, it is obvious that the highly capable program was a good fit for her.

    “As tree_guy pointed out, if this girl was allowed to stay in the program someone more qualified may not be admitted. The program needs to be fare to this girl but it also needs to be fair to all of the other students who qualify, as well.”

    The question is: Is the student who was given her slot in the program (if there was one) truly more qualified or did he just do better on the MSP tests? Is a student who does better on the tests but doesn’t score as high in the day-to-day class work truly more qualified?

    THAT is the problem I have with basing qualification strictly on the standardized testing. The MSP should be a factor – but if the student is performing very highly in all other areas, the standardized tests alone should not disqualify her.

  26. alindasue says:

    To illustrate why I don’t think the standardized test alone should not be a factor in determining eligibility for the highly capable program:

    I have a high school age daughter who has a cumulative GPA of 3.8. She won two awards this year for academic excellence.

    One day this year, she took a Geometry exam and received a “D” on the test. She hadn’t been feeling well that day and it showed in her test score. When she went back to retake the test a couple days later after she was feeling better, she scored a “B+”. She scored well on the HSPE this year, but what if the day they took the standardized tests had been the day she hadn’t felt well? Should they kick her out of her Honors level classes just based on that?

  27. Do we know for sure that the standardized test is the only thing that the school district looks at when determining who makes the cut, alindasue? Don’t they look at other factors?

    Everyone has a bad day and it sucks when that bad day is an important day. How are we supposed to determine that this student should be given special consideration because she had a bad day when she tested?

    When Tiger Woods has a bad day and he doesn’t make the cut he may be disappointed but he understands that he doesn’t deserve special consideration just because he’s a top golfer. He has to earn his place every time just like anyone else.

  28. letsworkitout says:

    standardized tests are more accurate as an indicator of achievement if they are more frequent. One test one day doesn’t necessarily translate to bottom line learning. “Not doing so well” on the test could mean she didn’t get 4’s for a highly capable child. I highly doubt she received 1’s.

    Many of the posts here are far too cynical, so much so that I think these same people (who are cynical in most of their posts, pound their chests with the “truth” constantly) are among the most bitter of society. They never see the good in anything. I don’t know if these people know that after a while they sound monotonous, predictable, and boring. You don’t even need to read all of their post anymore. So to the bobcats, bigswingingrichards, blaines, blakes, kardnos, concernedtacoma, and the like….bring something to the table beyond your bitterness, negativity, and just plain nasty attitudes. Bring some real solutions to the problems since you seem to think you know what is best.

  29. cclngthr says:

    Standardized tests have always been around, and are used to determine eligibility for many things, as you, and I know. They are an indicator of achievement, however they are limited in some ways if the test is designed to compare one student against a group of students OR, a test that measures a students knowledge of concepts against a standard.

    With standardized tests, there has to be a benchmark of knowledge to determine if a student fits in with a particular program. The tests are used for that. At the same time, the tests are used to measure what the student knows (as with the MSP) against a standard which all students must achieve. Without the type of tests used, we would not be able to have an objective form of assessment to measure student knowledge that is based off a specific standard. Having district or teacher designed tests do not give an accurate picture that can be used to determine elegibility of certain programs requiring specific knowledge because these teacher made/produced tests are subjective and can be interpreted differently.

    If we do not teach what is on the test, the student will do poorly. That simple.

  30. unbanned1 says:

    Guess what granny, what this tells me is your granddaughter ain’t as smart as you thought she was.

  31. So disheartening to see so many snide comments about a highly capable or gifted child who didn’t make the cut. We should all celebrate having good students whatever their capabilities in our community.
    Highly capable children are put thru a series of testing including classroom portfolios, teacher recommendations, a series of standardized tests. AND the reward is higher and more difficult classwork with gobs of homework and competitions they train for, and the worst part of it is every time one of these little human beings makes a slip there is not shortage of sour grape voices questioning their capabilities.
    The truth is that gifted children find hard what other children find easy. And vice versa. Even Albert Einstein’s teachers thought he was retarded because of delays in developmental speech, no one could understand him, he didn’t do well in class etc etc which made him a student that didn’t fit the regular pattern.
    One reason there are highly capable programs is precisely because these children don’t do well in a regular classroom – their brains work differently, they learn differently, they have a higher incidence of quirks, tics, ADD, quirky behavior; most of them have been targetted by bullies many times before entering these programs; many of them dropout, there are lots of former gifted students driving trucks and selling cars because we (the collective WE) failed to tap into these children’s potential – and that’s all giftedness is – a potential which like any potential that is neglected goes to WASTE.
    ANd that is why CHINA, ESTONIA, SINGAPORE, SWITZERLAND, INDIA invest heavily in these precious resources – these little human potentialities that we neglect shamefully and that we resent spending resources on – so if these children aren’t born into a family of riches like the GATES’ etc, by the time they reach junior high we lose their gifts collectively as a country and as a community.
    Don’t ever give up ON ANY KID, – challenge their tests and ask that they retake them and be allowed to enter. Children have bad days on test days – if they are willing to take the test again – why would we begrudge them the opportunity? we should collectively welcome any child that wants to retake a test. – highly capable, developmentally handicapped, just plain vanilla and chocolate – it doesn’t matter – celebrate all our children’s ability to STAND UP AFTER FALLING AND SUPPORT THEM TO THE FINISH LINE. COME ON PEOPLE – GET TOGETHER NOW AND SUPPORT ANY CHILD THAT FALLS FLAT ON THEIR FACE AND WANTS TO GET UP AND TRY AGAIN!

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