California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) 2006 math results catapulted my fourth-grade son, Misael, aka Witzalberto Delacroix, to a different dimension, letting others know what I already knew, that Misael, Witzalbertie, was a gifted kid.
Furthermore, Johns Hopkins University, through its Center for Talented Youth, invited Witzalberto for two consecutive summers, with a full scholarship to participate in their summer programs Inventions and Engineering. That was, definitely, a life changing experience for my son. But most of all, my son gained enough confidence so as to be considered, by his teachers, classmates, and siblings, as a “glorious” talented child.
Two years later, we came back to Mexico, and my official math whiz got lost in the maze of a different educational system and sank in the deep waters of anonymity. No more distinctions or diplomas for him. The Mexican assessment system considered Misael, my once genius boy, to be nothing but average.
Why did this happen? Here’s a list of possible answers.
a) American food and water make smarter kids.
b) American standardized tests are easier.
c) Mexicans are trying to “raise the bar”.
d) Standardized tests suck.
e) All of the above.
Jokes aside, the truth is that, in Mexico, to be considered talented, you have to excel in every subject, not only math or language. You have to be an almighty-talented kid and, with that the case, there’s not a specific program for them.
But, beyond programs and tests. What does it mean to be talented? What does it mean to you? To be good at something? And, for that matter, aren’t we all talented?
Misael’s math skills were valued by the system for obvious economic reasons. But, what about other skills? What about the ability to feel for others, to care, or to assist; the ability to make others happy? How about the ability to listen, or share; to work together, or to connect? Those are very important skills which no one assesses. Educational systems don’t acknowledge them.
I knew Misael was talented before the STAR scores came up, as I know that my other two sons are, as I know every child in the world is. The problem is that their “talent” is not valued nor acknowledged by their educational systems. For example, I value a sense of humor, as I need laughter in my life as I need air, and there’s not a single standardized test in the world that assesses that aspect, despite Jerry Seinfeld’s success, among others.
Bottom line. Is assessment an indispensable part of the curriculum? Do we really need assessment? And if we do, how should we do it?