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Intelligence And Achievement Tests In Middle Childhood

Achievement tests are the most widely used and accepted form of assessment for public school children. However, standardized tests face a lot of criticism from the public. What do we need to know about assessing school-aged children's intelligence in order to know if standardized tests are working?

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Cognitive Abilities in Middle Childhood

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The first thing we need to understand is what the neurotypically functioning school-aged brain is capable of. As children navigate middle childhood, they experience increased short-term memory capacity, improved attention and focus, increase in knowledge base, and overall faster mental processing. Essentially, they are better able to memorize and retain information, can pay attention longer to the most important things, and can even engage in metacognition - thinking critically about their own mental processes. The technical aspects of their writing become more refined, they have increased number sense, and their language is more elegant than ever before in easing through conversation and clarifying meaning.

Ways to Measure Intelligence

There are many different theories about what is the best way to measure cognitive ability, or intelligence. Many psychologists have tested and agreed upon their own measure, but there is not one single measure that all educators and psychologists agree upon today. The Multiple Intelligences theory suggests that there are 9 different facets of intelligence in which you can excel, including intelligence about nature, logic/math, and even the ability to understand yourself. The psychometric approach is the most influential approach to measuring intelligence, and is responsible for the creation of intelligence tests. The Weschler scales are responsible for the IQ test of today.

Academic Achievement Tests of Today

Standardized tests are widely used in public school classrooms all over the United States. Their goal is to measure language, math, science reasoning, and reading skills in school-aged children. Using this information, administrators and educators compare students within a school, and with other schools, to see where their level of academic performance is in relation to others in the state. This could help schools to know what aspects of their curriculum they need to strengthen. However, high stakes testing practices often lead to anxiety in school-aged children, and it can lead to them being tracked as they progress into high school.

Systemic Factors and the Achievement Gap

Achievement tests sometimes leave certain groups behind. Research has shown that tests are unintentionally created by and for white middle-class children. This brings goodness-of-fit into question; the group that is constantly found achieving lowest is African American children, as their environment does not prepare them for these tests. In addition, socioeconomic status of neighborhoods play a role. State boards of education decide yearly funding costs through information about school districts' performance. This leads to high-achieving schools continuing to perform highly, and low-achieving schools continuing to struggle, as funding and resources are highly correlated with performance. Finally, girls are found to generally perform better on tests than boys in middle childhood. This could possibly be attributed to gendered behavioral expectations in the classroom, with expectations of girls being to have higher attention spans and perform better, and expectations of boys being to act out and care less about lessons and their schoolwork.

All school-aged children want to succeed!

Overall, we should keep in mind that effective testing that caters to each individual young learner is the ultimate goal, but that we are not there yet. Every child wants to succeed, but educators and parents are responsible for creating an environment conducive to learning, confidence, and creativity.

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