Earlier this month an Alabama school board member asked during a meeting why children with special needs who couldn’t pass standardized tests couldn’t be sent different schools referred to as “academy’s.” The basis for this comment was concern for schools. If these students’ scores were excluded then schools would have much higher test scores. Needless to say, it went viral and not in a good way. The media spun it around in so many circles and it took a while to sort out fact from fiction. Countless people called for her removal from the board while others enlisted the help of disability advocates. In all fairness, she can’t be the only person who has ever asked this question and won’t be the last.
I thought about the testing I went through during my school years and came to a sobering realization. I am one of the students they were referring to. I would be sent to the special school or academy. I was lucky to get the lowest average score in some subjects while in many I scored below average. I was held back in the second grade and struggled to graduate from high school. I tried college, but dropped out of because I just didn’t get it. I still need a calculator some days to calculate two plus two.
Do I do well on standardized tests? No. Do I score high on an IQ test? No. Does this mean I am dumb? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
I don’t want this part to sound like I’m bragging, because I’m not. This is for perspective when it comes to standardized testing.
After failing at college, I started a career in health care at a major insurance company. I was quickly promoted to a claims analysis position. From there I went on to work for several physicians, DME companies and hospitals as a billing and revenue analyst. My next stop was as a Systems Analyst for a hospital subsidiary. After that I was a Business Analyst for an outsourcing company. I eventually obtained my Lean Six Sigma Green and Black Belt certifications. Six Sigma is analysis centered. Are you starting to see the trend here? Me too. Currently I’m a CEO, but there are many analytical aspects to this type of position as well.
My brain sees things other people either miss or need a computer to see. Not obvious things, but anomalies. For example, my husband hates to watch Judge Judy with me because I can read micro expressions faster than her and will yell out, “YOU’RE A HUSTLER” before she does. I can figure out a who done it in 15 minutes or less. I can’t be lied to either. My husband calls me the human lie detector. I probably shouldn’t tell people I know they lied and what they lied about, but I’m working on that one. I worked with software developers who liked to give me raw programming code or EDI files just to watch me find the anomaly. I loved it! It stimulated my brain and kept me from getting bored.
I can’t speak for every disability. I can, however, speak about epilepsy. Every person with epilepsy is different, but all of us have three things in common. Our brains are literally wired differently from everyone else’s, we generally don’t do well on standardized tests or any other tests, and we aren’t dumb. Some of the most brilliant and famous people in history had epilepsy. Vincent van Gogh, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe and Aristotle; just to name a few.
Every day I get to interact with people from all over the world who are brilliant. Musicians, artists, analyst, business leaders, advocates and the list goes on. If there were tests made specifically for us our scores would be high. But, they can’t test for analytics, creativity and other things we excel at. So when considering sending children who don’t do well on standardized tests to a separate school, please be careful. Maybe they should take a different approach and learn from us. We could teach them more about school systems than any standardized test.