A couple of years ago, I wrote about how the Cogat test scores didn't really mean anything. At least I tried to write that. Then our daughter was seen as "Gifted," and I got kind of excited about it. But I still TRIED not to get too excited, since I want her to experience her childhood as a normal child with normal expectations. That's how it was for me, generally, and I wasn't stressed or worried about what my next test score would be. But I did know, and as long as it was as high as anyone else's and I was seen as the smartest kid in the class, I was fairly relaxed. Looking back, that's probably an awful way of handling it, and now it's our kids' turn, and it's all because we moved.
At the Milwaukee German Immersion School, both kids were considered to be in the top tier. They liked it. We liked going in for conferences and hearing nice stuff about our kids. They were learning German and always right near the top of their classes in every category. That feels good, and the kids got used to the feeling.
Then we moved to Kansas, where plenty of people (from KS) told us they had a good educational system. We never felt the half-expected awe of being from Wisconsin, where education used to have a gleaming, pre-Scott Walker reputation for excellence. Lisa has had to jump through all kinds of Kansas hoops to get her certification to teach here, and then Helena got placed in the regular math group. Yeah, I know. One of her former MGIS teachers is reading this right now and saying, "They put her where?"
OK, back up a second. She never took the standard entrance exam for some reason. But when she came home saying some kids were in a better math class and the kids who stayed with her were not impressing her, I had to get involved. And, of course, all I had to go on were those pesky test scores. MAP, PALS, Cogat, and STAR. All of these scores pointed towards a daughter who achieves or has the potential to achieve, starting with her K5 MAP score that placed her in around the 50th Percentile for a 2nd grader (90+ for K5), then the Cogat with her impressive percentile rank, and then her STAR test that said her scores were "Significantly Above" some kind of norm.
I was a little surprised when those scores weren't enough, and even more surprised to hear that her MAP math scores were not even considered very high by the school's standards. Then I started to worry, thinking that maybe every child in Johnson County, Kansas, is gifted. Or that 8-9 stanines aren't all that impressive anymore (but that doesn't make sense mathematically). Of course, all this was after I'd sent an email claiming NOT to be one of those parents that pushes teachers and administrators to believe his kid is gifted when she's just a regular kid. It was also frustrating BECAUSE Helena had to waste weeks of her academic career completing those other tests that were not valid in Kansas, like Lisa's perfectly valid teaching license. State pride at work...KS and WI have nearly identical ACT results (but I'd generally argue that favors WI because KS has no major city to pull scores down).
And what does it matter, Lisa keeps asking. She wants to know why being in the top math class or whatever makes any difference at all. I assure her it does not, as long as Helena and James are in the advanced classes. And this goes back to the Cogat. They had nearly identical scores. Nearly identical potential, greater than 98% of their peers in certain parts. Can you imagine what a year NOT being seen as the top of one's class might do to this kind of potential? I guess I don't know, since it never happened to me, at least not until college. but that was because I was only competing against myself at that point, and it was kind of boring. I guess I'll assume that a year or several years of being seen as just another kid might make our kids decide that's who they are, and most other kids don't rush to get homework done or strive to be one of the best at every single subject in school.
So I played the test score card. And it didn't get her into the advanced class, but she was able to take an entrance exam. In some ways, I didn't want that solution, since I would have reviewed a few rules had I known it was coming, and because she had kind of an off-year as far as math goes in her last year, meaning she was kind of stuck in a class that was not moving forward very quickly (ironic, of course). I am sure she had minimal growth, resulting in a score somewhere in the 75th percentile rank for her grade level, and a session of tears when we interpreted the score together, followed by vows to get into the advanced class by studying on her own if she has to.
James, on the other hand, is James, and he did not have an off-year when it came to math, so he was several points above the 99th percentile for his grade, and technically in the 96th percentile for Helena's grade, and technically fully capable of being in the class SHE wants to take.
In the long run, the school benefits from putting two kids like this into whatever classes they can and want to handle, since they both have decent potential. I don't want every parent who reads this to email an administrator and demand a higher-level class. It's probably not even a good idea for many kids who actually do very well on skills testing, especially if it's not where they want to be. But if you have kids who are teacher-pleasers and naturally competitive, it's probably something to consider. Know your kids before you push for teachers to make adjustments. I asked several times if this was what she wanted, since she's the one who would be taking the class, not me.
And with Helena's MAP scores not being considered that high. Maybe it was because she took the tests in K5 and someone read them as 3rd grade results, or maybe it's because everyone in the new school is also significantly above all benchmarks. Either way, the fact that she wants to be in the class and will work hard on her own to get there if need be means that she likes the feeling of being the best, and she's going to work as hard as she has to in order to get it back. James will just be James.