Helena came home today with results of her CogAT test, and it marks the end of her test innocence. While she's taken other meaningless assessments, this is the first one (that we've been shown) that ties her name to a percentile rank, stanines, norms, and so forth. Let the competition begin! Let the worrying begin!

Or don't.

When I bought into the hype and looked the test up online, I not only learned more about its purpose, I also learned about fellow helicopter parents (and myself).

 

The purpose of any standardized test is to identify abilities or skills. Some might do this better than others. Some might claim to predict future grades in classes or deficiencies that need to be addressed. However, what the results are supposed to reveal are completely irrelevant if nothing is done to improve the skills identified as lacking. Test companies, school districts, and teachers are so concerned with data acquisition and analysis that they generally have no intention to employ the data to make any changes. Not only that, one could argue they should not try to do so.

 

Helena's lowest scores appeared in the spatial something or other section. Lisa said that made sense because she herself had trouble with geometry in high school and boys are better at spatial stuff. I did not want to hear this, partially because I was ranked in the 99th percentile in ALL sections of the test when I was my daughter's age. Plus, we read to her more than my own parents had. Plus, plus, Lisa herself was an excellent student, so those half of our daughter's genes shouldn't be dragging her down too much.

 

I look for answers on the testing company's website. They offer study guides and test prep advice. I know there are a lot of millionaires making their money off telling me where my kid ranks against 100 peers. I begin talking myself down. I realize most of those millionaires were never ranked in the 99th percentile. I wonder how many successful people are part of the top 1%. Am I the exception? In all honesty, the test was right. I did not have deficiencies and I performed well in all subjects without really trying. Then I became an English teacher in a laughable suburb near Milwaukee. So much was so easy for me that I sometimes didn't bother if something was going to be difficult. 99 of 100 other kids had to try a little harder to get the same results. Many of them became doctors, lawyers, engineers, and software developers, doubling or tripling my yearly salary.

There's more to this story when you subscribe. Find out why it matters how well your kid does on the CogAT.

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