Standardized Testing Limits Potential

test The education world, like any other industry, goes through phases. The importance placed on standardized testing is just one of the phases but it’s been a tough one for educators, parents, and students alike. With the “No Child Left Behind Act” teaching to the test became the norm. “Common Core” is our public education’s response to too much testing and not enough learning.

We’ve Created a System that Requires Us to Measure a Person’s Potential In & Out of the Classroom

Common Core’s true underlying focus is a belief that we all learn differently and that we should promote those learning styles. In fact, the progressive and developmental education movements believe we should be teaching to a child’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. This makes sense because as adults we all learn to compensate for our weaknesses and choose careers that play to our strengths.

Standardized objective tests are not a true indicator of potential. They simply measure where a child stands in relation to his peers at that moment in time. However, the system we’ve created, both in and out of the classroom, requires us to measure a person’s abilities.

A Student’s Self-Worth Hinges on Where they Score on the Scale of Perceived Success

We use these tests to define if and where a student will go to college, what type of job they are most suited for, and how stnd deviationmany public services and how much funding a child will receive. By default, we are defining how much learning potential our students have by how well they take a test. When we continue to define a person by an objective standard we slowly chip away at their uniqueness, which leads to defining ourselves by how well we fit in with the crowd. Our self-worth now hinges on where we fall on that scale of perceived success.

The SCERTS Models Teaches the Foundational Skills to Get that Job & Keep that Job

The reality of life after school is that a person is not measured by how well they do on an exam but rather how well they (a) perform the task, and (b) connect with those around them. EQ is more important than IQ. Simply said, if people like you they want to work with you.

The SCERTS Model is based on the belief that Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, and putting in place a Support System to implement those tools maximizes a student’s learning potential. It’s not a test; it’s a way of life.

Traditionally designed for children on the Autism Spectrum, SCERTS can be used for any child because it teaches how to effectively communicate with one another, which should be the foundation of our learning model. Skills such as Functional Spontaneous Communication, Social Interaction in Various Settings, Teaching of Play Skills, Instruction Leading to Generalization and Maintenance of Cognitive Goals, Positive Approaches to Address Problem Behaviors, and Functional Academic Skills are important for every child at the crux of a developmental period.

Furthermore, these skills can be used in multidisciplinary, crossover home and school environments to provide our children with a foundational communication skill set that will not only allow them to get that job doing what they love but keep that job.

Less Emphasis on Testing = More Emphasis on Cultivating Great “Changers of the World”

I realize that our education system will probably never eliminate standardized testing, but my hope is that we place much less emphasis on its scores. Every child is different. Every child learns differently. We cannot expect to cultivate great thinkers, innovators and “Changers of the World” if we continue to define our children by a number. The more we come to accept this truism, the more chances we give each of our children to achieve real success.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

Successful Relationships Make Successful Students

communityAmerica, unlike most of the world, suffers from isolation. Our country is isolated physically and our people are isolated emotionally. Our puritanical roots have taught us to revere independence and as a culture we believe that raising a child to be independent is the best thing we could do as a parent.

All this emphasis on breeding independence, however, has led to the inability to create interdependence, which is really the act of purposely seeking out and engaging in healthy connection with a community.

Here’s Why We Have Trouble Connecting: The United States is not a relationship-based culture and that’s why we have trouble connecting to each other. Collectively, as a society, we value doing things on our own more than asking for help. This truism is mirrored in gender bias (ie: men never ask for directions) and perpetuated by this notion of a do-it-yourself, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, and go-out-there-and-get-what-you-want American Dream. It’s what has made America the land of opportunity and what has made Americans the most overworked, overweight, over-medicated, and over-anxious people in the world.

Here’s What We Can Do About It:

  • First, if you’ve ever felt alone, know that you’re not alone. A lot of people feel alone and are wondering: Am I doing this whole living, working, and raising a kid thing right?
  • Second, we have to learn how to seek out the right community. We need to form relationship with people who share the same value system as us but also challenge us to learn to relate to one another in a new way.
  • Third, we need to teach our kids how to do the same. Children are great at making friends and forming their own little communities. But it’s when competition and lack of respect for a differing viewpoint creeps in that we learn to devalue a community because it’s different.

Community simply brings us together and makes us feel less alone. We can’t do everything on our own, no matter how hard we try. I am certainly a testament to this realization, ’cause darn it I’ve tried my hardest to go it alone and it just doesn’t work out as well as I had envisioned!

Children know this intuitively. Before we grew up and became the independent adults we are, we were able to make friends most anywhere. Jerry Seinfeld has great insight into this idea:

Teaching our Students to Rely on Others is a Good Thing

School is its own community, but it hasn’t traditionally been that great for teaching our students how to develop community and rely on each other for help. This is evident in our teaching models, where the emphasis is on working independently towards an expectation or developing competition by taking a test that measures where a student stands in relation to his or her peers. And when students are struggling, that’s where isolation becomes more of a factor in their success story than we may realize.

Because I work with students who are struggling in school, it is clear that much of their anxiety is perpetuated by the standards that they feel they are unable to live up to. Whether that be a grade they wanted but didn’t achieve or a part in the play they tried out for but didn’t get, they come to me with overwhelming feelings of loneliness that affects how well they do in school. They feel alone because they feel unsuccessful; they feel unsuccessful because they are not a member of the particular community they want to be in. They are taught by us, however, to squash their disappointment in favor of putting on a brave face and moving on to the next thing. We need to let our students know that it’s okay to stew a little bit. It’s okay to feel sad because we aren’t a part of the group. This is natural.

Biologically we are wired to feel empathy because the brain is a social organ. Too often we learn to suppress empathy in favor of independent achievement. When we discredit or discount our disappointment and try to “go it alone”, we are really going against our natural instincts — to reach out to others for help.

When a student is a part of a healthy community, however, they feel better about themselves because whatever struggles they may have, they know they don’t have to go it alone. They know they can always reach out for help. That’s the beauty of teaching our children, our students, that community should be valued. It’s not just a lesson for kids, but a life-long one that we adults need to revisit too.

Take a look at what Dr. Louis Cozolino, Psychologist and Author of several books on neuroscience, including “The Social Neuroscience of Education, Optimizing Attachment & Learning in the Classroom”, has to say about how our brains are wired for social connection.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

Learning versus Thinking

learning v thinkingLet’s be clear: School is not just about learning but also about social conformity. For example, we must line up to go outside for recess, write our essays in MLA format, eat lunch at a certain time during the day, follow a schedule, participate by raising our hands, and I’m sure you can think of countless other examples. Because I work with kids whose social “deficits” cloud their ability to participate in a traditional classroom, I often wonder: Are we teaching our students to think for themselves or learn by example?

The short of the argument is that students need to learn both critical thinking and social modeling to live and work in the society we’ve created. However, where we struggle in our educational culture is letting the thing kids are passionate about doing, define their learning career. And no, I’m talking about video games 🙂

All too often the thinking skill in our classroom is put aside in favor of following the social cues. Some will argue this comes from our industrialization of education, modeled after Ford’s Model T Assembly Line technique. Others will argue that EQ (the Emotional Quotient) is more important than remembering facts and figures because how we interact with others on a basic human, social level will ultimately determine our success.

I’d like to think that we’re teaching our students to question, rather than just blindly obey. But I’m not sure. For that reason, I’m fascinated by the progressive school movement, which sprung from many homeschooling groups. In general, they believe in a multidisciplinary model of education. This means that independent learning, self-directed study, and outside of the classroom settings are the backdrop to thinking creatively–outside the box– and therefore guiding our students towards their own individual definition of success rather than a set standard of achievement.

As a public school graduate, myself, I followed the traditional classroom model all the way through law school; there is something to be said for teaching our kids to follow the leader. More often than not, however, there is a creative potential in all kids that may get lost along the way, thinking that the expected path is the best path. It happened to me.

I chose my educational journey, my parents did not choose it for me. In fact, they encouraged exploration and defining my career path by my talents and strengths. I was the one who had an exact idea of what success looked like, and I decided early on in my education that I wanted to achieve that set standard. It was only later, after graduation and the recession of 2008, that I started to really think outside of the box and combine my skills to create a company founded on collaboration–an intuitive but outside-of-the-box approach in special education advocacy and education in general.

Did I have this potential all along? Could I have tapped into it sooner if I hadn’t already decided that I wanted a pre-determined notion of success?

The point being is that we’re all born with unique gifts and talents, but our human desire to socially be accepted often overrides our ability to follow our own path. Those students who feel like outsiders, or are treated as such, are the ones that, if nurtured, end up not following the crowd and doing something outside of the box–something uniquely innovative. We, as educators, should cultivate those critical thinking skills and applaud our students when they come up with a novel idea. Although needed, we should place less emphasis on conformity and more on developing an individual’s talents because when it comes down to it, following the crowd will only take you as far as the person in front of you goes.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student, combining Academic Support, Behavior Support, and Education Advocacy to bridge the gap between home and school in order to serve the whole student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com