Monday, May 26, 2008

New IQ tests: more bad news for left-brainers

Joanne Jacobs reports an Education Week story about a new IQ test, developed by Yale psychologists and based on the ideas of Robert Sternberg, that redefines intelligence as encompassing not just the analytic skills that traditional IQ tests measure, but so-called "practical" and "creative" skills as well.

Designed, in part, to level the playing field for admission to gifted programs, the so-called Aurora test (named for the rainbow colors of the polar auroras) is, quoting Education Week:

...a comprehensive battery that includes a group-administered paper-and-pencil test, a parent interview, a scale for teacher rating of students, and some observation items. The paper-and-pencil test gauges creativity, for instance, by asking students to imagine what objects might say to one another if they could talk, or to generate a story plot to fit an abstract illustration on a children’s-book cover.

Teacher ratings, parent interviews, dubious creativity gauges: lots of room for subjective judgments of the sort that, as I've discussed here, here, here, here, and here, tend to disfavor left-brainers.

Consider, especially, Aurora's sample creativity question:

Number 7 and Number 4 are playing at school, but then they get in a fight. Why aren't 7 and 4 getting along?

This question so profoundly irritates my left-brained sensitivities that I'm completely stumped. Only in a fit of sarcasm could I possibly come up with something like Aurora's sample "high scoring" response:

They are not the same. One is even, the other odd. Seven doesn't like 4 because two 4's are 8 and 8 is 7's evil brother! 4 doesn't like 7 because 7 is a prime number.

As Joanne Jacobs notes, "I don't see the next Spielberg there."

The egregious lack of theoretical rigor and empirical support for Aurora's redefinition of IQ (discussed in this article by Gottfredson) doesn't stop it from, quoting Education Week, "attract[ing] strong supporters at the k-12 level."

Education Week reports the Yale researchers as faulting traditional intelligence tests for measuring only a "narrow subset" of intelligence: memory and analytical skills. According to EW, these "are the kinds of abilities that teachers tend to value and emphasize in the classroom."

Well, maybe once, but, as I've discussed here, here, here and here, not any more. Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences began infiltrating our classrooms long before Aurora was a twinkle in Sternberg's eye.

Today's classrooms are so biased against left-brainers that standardized tests like SATs, APs, and traditional IQ tests have been their one remaining recourse for academic distinction.

But now even these assessments are starting to downplay left-brained skills in favor of amorphous entities like "creativity" for which there is no objective measure--but plenty of room for right-brain bias.

First came the new SAT tests, which replace analogies with essays and mental math with calculators. Next up, it now seems, are school-sanctioned IQ tests.

4 comments:

OverwhelmedMom said...

I'm not so sure this is a poor answer to the problem of gifted identification. Approximately half of gifted students are not identified as gifted because of some of the traits that go along with being gifted. Further, most schools use a variant of the WISC test, which, according to the national association of gifted children, is inadequate for measuring IQ because of its focus on timed activities. (My son was identified as not gifted on the WISC, but was found to be exceptionally gifted when the Stanford-Binet 5 was used.)

At least they are making efforts rather than letting kids rot. Now it would be nice if they use these to provide services other than pull-out programs, which just punish the children for being intelligent.

lefty said...

What I'd like to see is no admissions criteria whatsoever for" gifted" classes. Just appropriately tough material and appropriately touch grading standards. Let students and their parents choose which classes they can handle, workwise and grade-wise (and subject-wise: different kids are talented in different subjects).

The real problem is that fewer and fewer schools offer any challenging academic programming for anyone.

OverwhelmedMom said...

It would be nice if you could get rid of the "label mentality" that every school seems to have and just provide an environment where kids could work at their own pace in every subject. Unfortunately, that would probably mean putting kids of different ages in the same room, which is apparently a cardinal sin. It seems that keeping kids of the same age in the same room is more important than teaching them anything.

Anonymous said...

Can I just point out, I do very badly in IQ tests and I know that I am not stupid. On the contrary, I excel in all my subjects, regularly achieving A*s and firmly believe that IQ tests are not an accurate measure of intelligence. Otherwise I would have failed all of my exams on the basis of predicted grades.