To the Editor:
Reading Dave Powell’s Commentary, “Confusing Achievement With Aptitude” (Dec. 12, 2012), brought back some rather painful memories of my experiences in public schools. Mr. Powell outlines how his son has been hurt by the labeling associated with not scoring proficient on mandated exams; he also writes about the principal of his son’s school telling him in an email that his son is not “capable of managing academic work.”
I recall as a teacher in the Bronx in New York City teaching recent arrivals from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, and I remember the pain of many of my students when they realized they had not passed the numerous exams required to achieve a diploma.
Through Facebook, I have managed to keep in touch with many of my former students, and those very same ones I agonized over when they didn’t pass a battery of exams to gain their diplomas are now business owners, entrepreneurs, and otherwise engaged in rewarding careers.
I am a high school dropout. I received my General Educational Development (GED) certificate and entered college immediately afterward, intent on making something of myself. There was no test that could gauge my drive for success in high school. I left high school feeling like a major failure. As Mr. Powell accurately states: “His [son’s] school district had made the mistake of confusing achievement with aptitude and worsened it by using tests as an exclusive measure of both ... though the tests have no such predictive validity.”
It pains me to know that we have turned off the drive for success of many of our kids because we labeled them failures based on tests that do not predict how well they will do in life.
Office of Innovation and Reform
East Baton Rouge Parish Public Schools
Baton Rouge, La.
A version of this article appeared in the January 16, 2013 edition of Education Week as Testing Can Imperil Drive for Success