The Pros & Cons of IQ Testing in Schools
By Joy Dora Educational Reporter Seattle Pi
Additional edits by Alice Sasnett M. Ed
Whether or not Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, tests should be administered in schools is a controversial issue. Parents want their children to receive the best possible education, and schools and administrators are under pressure to make sure that students pass standardized tests. So, it makes sense that some schools would turn to testing students’ learning potential to try and improve their education. But what really are the benefits to IQ testing and what are the pitfalls that parents, teachers and administrators should look out for?
Identifies Gifted Students
One benefit to IQ testing in elementary school is that tests like the Stanford Binet and Weschler IV can identify gifted students as early as pre-school or kindergarten. By identifying these students early, schools can give them more advanced work. America lags behind other countries in math and science achievement, so nurturing students with high potential may pay off in the long run. This may be the best strategy for students beginning in grade 2, but it often has a negative in the earliest grades. Robert Fulghum is the author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. His theme? There is a lot more to learn in kindergarten and 1st grade than just academics. Allowing a child to develop socially as well as intellectually builds life skills that will transcend “Gifted classes.” Any early childhood teacher worth their salt knows this, and should be able to differentiate for the needs of high-achievers as well as low achievers. Link attached for those who never had the joy of reading it.
Identifies Students at Risk
Every parent wants to hear that her child is considered “gifted," but rare is the parent who would want to receive a phone call that her child falls below the average IQ. Still, as painful as that information might be, identifying students with below-average IQs at an early age might help those students. Schools can provide extra instruction to a student at risk of falling behind, which might ensure that student’s success later in his educational career.
A down side to labeling students with high IQs is that it may actually stifle their potential. If a child is consistently told he’s smart, he may assume that everything comes easy to him. When something is truly difficult, he may be more likely to give up. In life, resiliency is more often the defining factor in success, not relative IQ.. Conversely, if a child is labeled with a low IQ, he may develop a poor self-image and see himself as “stupid.” He may give up easily because he feels like he can’t achieve his goals. If teachers are aware of students’ IQs, they too may develop subconscious opinions, which can affect their teaching and expectations of students.
Lack of Diversity
IQ testing in schools naturally leads to tracking. Once schools identify high- and low-IQ students, they are likely to put the high-IQ students in gifted classes and low-IQ students in remedial classes. The younger the testing is performed, the more possibility for creating a lack of diversity in the school. Schools essentially create two or three different castes of students who rarely interact. This can create an unfriendly environment in the school.
Validity of Testing
There are questions regarding how important and valid IQ tests are, and what exactly they measure. Psychologist Howard Gardner theorized that there are at least seven different kinds of intelligence, but typically IQ tests only measure verbal and mathematical abilities. Some educators also believe that IQ tests administered too early are not reliable. Although IQ is relatively stable throughout the lifespan, very young children, ages 4-7, especially those from economically disadvantaged or ELL families, often score lower on IQ tests than those who have had the benefit of a few years of experience and education. In most school districts, the child will have to wait at least another full year for a second chance. And there can be no doubt that IQ does not measure fortitude, patience and the desire to succeed. As a child grows up, these qualities are far more important than mere intelligence. Dr. Carol Dweck has done extensive research on this idea that she defines as “ Growth Mindset.” According to Dr. Dweck, a growth mindset is far more predictive of success in life than IQ.
Having a child identified as gifted often fills parents and teachers with a sense of false pride. After all, the child has a lot of life left to live in which their “gifts” and abilities will naturally surface. While the temptation may be to push them into gifted programs very early, a return to the idea of the “whole child” philosophy of education is probably the most valuable for the child’s well-being. That should be the final consideration. As the old adage goes, time will tell.