Why tests don’t measure your child’s most important strengths.
At the beginning of each school year, my daughter always anticipated a new opportunity to achieve “A” grades. But as the semester progressed, her expectations usually faded as test scores diminished her chances of believing in her abilities. Like many students, my daughter has learning differences – ways of thinking and showing what she knows – that are vastly different from the norm.
Even for children who perform well on academic tests, an “A” grade is only one measurement of success. A few things that school testing cannot measure include:
- Critical thinking
- Capacity to love
- Social and emotional intelligence
Internal strengths, like those listed above, are far more important to a life of success and well-being than whether a child earns an “A” on an Algebra exam. In fact, many tests only measure a student’s ability to produce a correctly memorized answer. For today’s learners, correct answers are not enough. By the time children reach late adolescence, their brains have the capacity to explore the boundaries between fields of study, and to create new ways of learning. These critical abilities, fostered throughout childhood, will fuel tomorrow’s innovative technologies and create important social change.
“When was the last time you helped your teen identify and build on his or her character strengths?”
Despite a strong body of research on the value of internal strengths, we continue to measure kids using standardized, quantitative tests. Why? Because skills like critical thinking, curiosity, and collaboration are much more difficult to measure quantitatively across large populations. So we tend to measure what can most easily be measured – reading, math, and science knowledge.
Whether or not you are a proponent of standardized testing or question the value of grades, there is a fallacy about grades and test scores that leads many parents to become complacent, particularly when their child is doing well at school. Children succeed in life for many reasons; grades do not guarantee success. The article, Thinking About Psychological Literacy, explains important aspects of success that are not measured by grades, like the ability to be self-reflective, action-oriented, and connected to work that improves the lives of others. These skills cannot be measured in quantitative terms, nor are they easily compared through testing from one child to another.
We may be living in an age that is obsessed with numbers, but that doesn’t mean we have to teach our children to measure their self-worth by grades or test scores alone. When was the last time you helped your teen identify and build on his or her character strengths?
Parents can make a difference by paying attention to the “whole child,” – not just the child who attends school each day but to the child who participants in family life, reaches out to others, thinks creatively, acts wisely, collaborates, and shows respect. Parents have the capacity to nurture these qualities in children, to let them know they are more than a test score.
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