Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Compare

The first Commandment of raising school-aged children and grades is: Thou shalt not compare one child with another.  

Everybody knows this rule and follows it diligently because otherwise No-Good-(TM)-can-come of-it and children-only-end-up-with-bruised-egos-and-otherwise-avoidable-misunderstandings.

But I'm breaking that rule to illustrate a point. Hey, the Nodlings don't read my blog and you probably don't either. If that makes me a bad parent, so be it.

I don't compare them to each other when their report cards come home, I always take them individually and review them against their prior performance or what we know to be their ability. They are still young enough that they get an "effort" grade along with the academic grade. I value that more highly than the letter grade they earn. As long as they are reaching their potential, I'm satisfied, and they get praise for that.

But what exactly is their potential? How can I help each one if I don't know? Short of an IQ test, we have to rely on experience, report cards, and periodic test scores. There is one set of tests they take annually that gives me a glimpse into their abilities: the ACT (or in our case TerraNova testing).

The results show up in neat little bar charts and percentiles. The percentile scores indicate that they scored better than X percent of everybody else who took the test for that grade level. That gives me an idea of their potential.

By graphing the results, I wanted to see the shape of their abilities. (Hey, I'm a picture guy; that's the way that things make sense to me.)  That hopefully will help me to understand each Nodling, the strengths and weaknesses.

Now -- without exaggeration -- I have at least one genius and one mentally retarded child. Everybody else falls somewhere between that 40 and 140 IQ. That's quite a challenge sometimes. (I'd say the kid with Down Syndrome is easier to deal with than the genius, although the techniques are similar -- but that's another subject.)

Here is a graph of the 3 older Nodlings. The percentile range for "average" is 25-74, and "above average" is 75-100.
Both Blynken and Nod-girl have two scores in the "average" range and everything else is "above average".  Wynken has top-flight test scores almost across the board.

What is striking to me is that Blynken's spelling and language mechanics scores are markedly out of range of the rest of her abilities -- hmm, that might mean a learning disability (or a kid who likes to rush through certain tests). On the other hand, those scores are almost exactly average -- nothing wrong with that. Her report card grades in those subjects are actually very good; her other subjects tracked closely with her abilities.

Nod-girl's test scores and her grades were in perfect sync. That's my girl!

Wynken's grades underperformed his test scores by a consistent margin -- which is what happens when you don't turn in your homework in a timely fashion. (Not like he didn't have a constant reminder from us.)

Parenting a child with a high IQ is interesting. It's not that he thinks he's smarter than us -- he actually is. What he lacks is wisdom and the ability to put that knowledge to its proper use. Sorry, kiddo, you still need parents for moral guidance, experience, love, support, etc., etc. ;-)

The challenge is to know each one's abilities and encourage them to reach their potential. In the final analysis, however, no one is going to ask to see your diploma to get into Heaven. If we can do that for our kids we will have succeeded, graphs or no graphs.

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