Lancer Letter – Relativity

Submitted by Richard Scaletta, GM School District

This Lancer Letter was originally written in 2012:

My cat is gifted. Kitty, as he is descriptively named, is certainly one of the smartest felines in the world. I make this boast based on my observations of Kitty’s exploits and actions. He does things that I find to be intuitively intelligent.

As an educator, I would have to admit something about my assertion: I am not qualified to make that judgement about my cat. You see, before Kitty adopted us as his family (servants), neither my wife nor I had ever owned a cat – or any animal at all. (My pleas to my mother as a child for a puppy were always met with the retort that having a dog in the city wasn’t fair to the dog – not enough room to run.)

So without a group of cats to reference, my statements about any of Kitty’s wonderful qualities being superlative are admittedly unfounded. That is why when I hear a parent say something like, “my daughter is really smart for a five year old,” I want to ask, “How many five year olds have you been around? How much time have you spent with five year olds?”

Comparing children (or cats) of a certain age to a norm group, is a critical element for assessing normal growth and development. Indeed, intelligence testing and some types of aptitude and achievement testing are based on the process of testing thousands of subjects and grouping the results into norms to which individuals are compared.

My tendency to insist on Kitty’s superior intellect is a natural tendency that I share with parents. I’ve seen it many times in athletics when a parent will insist his child should have more playing time based on his assessment of his child’s playing skills. Coaches who have coached multiple years have the advantage of a large norm group against which to compare an individual’s playing prowess. This exposure and experience with large groups of students cannot be diminished in importance.

It is because of an educator’s exposure to the performance of a large number of students (or players) over time that the educator and parent can make a great team. No one knows a child better than a parent, and no one knows the norm group better than the educator. When a parent and educator honestly and openly compare assessments, good things can happen.

Throughout a child’s K-12 career, many decisions must be made. These decisions are stronger when approached as a team. In addition to the observations we have made as educators, we are also using assessment data more and more to help guide parents through the decision making process.

I know that our teachers, principals, coaches and guidance counselors are anxious and willing to help parents make decisions about their children. As a new school year approaches, I would encourage parents to team up with educators whose data and observations, coupled with parent knowledge of their children, will be likely to result in good decisions for children.

All that being said, I still think Kitty is really smart.

The Lancer Letter is a weekly editorial by Richard Scaletta, Superintendent of Schools, General McLane School District. Opinions expressed are Mr. Scaletta’s views on the issues and subjects of discussion, and not necessarily those of or our sponsors.

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