Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein, authors of “The Bell Curve”, claim that intelligence, as measured by IQ tests, varies by ethnic groups and since African-Americans score lower than whites on these tests, they must be genetically intellectually inferior. Parents need to take notice when statements like these are made.
There is a vast difference between intelligence and IQ. Intelligence is a description of behavior, you recognize intelligent behavior when you see a person who learns from experience, who acquires and retains knowledge, who responds quickly and successfully to new situations, and who uses his reasoning to solve problems. There are other attributes of intelligent behavior that we all can describe. Parents who see this behavior in their children know they are acting intelligently.
IQ or Intelligence Quotient should actually be labeled AQ or Achievement Quotient because it is a score on tests which measure what a person knows. The IQ score is arrived at by comparing what a person of a certain age knows as compared to what other persons of that age know. Because IQ pencil and paper tests are actually achievement tests they are good predictors of how well students will do with school-type activities. They are not intelligence tests because there is basically no such thing as a group paper and pencil intelligence test. Test publishers may label their tests as intelligence tests and claim they measure a child’s true intellectual level but they do not.
There are many hazards inherent in the misuse of misinterpretation of the results of these paper and pencil tests. The greatest danger is that children are labeled by the school system as very intelligent, average or unintelligent at a young age. These labels tend to stick regardless of subsequent successes or failures of children. They do not mature at the same rate or in the same way. Since IQ is determined by comparing chronological ages, children with uneven development are penalized by being labeled unintelligent when in fact, intelligence is not what the test measures. Their bodies may just not be ready for the tasks required on these group tests.
Another danger is highlighted by a study by Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson called, “Pygmalion in the Classroom”. In this study, teachers were told that twenty percent of their students showed unusual potential for intellectual growth. The names of these twenty percent were chosen at random. Eight months later, these children showed significantly greater gains in the IQ tests than did the remaining children who had not been singled out for the teacher’s attention. The authors note that the change in the teacher’s expectations regarding the intellectual performance of these allegedly special children had led to an actual change in their performance.
Children live up and down to our best and worst expectations. Parents need to be alert and to monitor their own behavior so that they do not label their children. They also need to be alert and to monitor the school’s behavior to determine if their children are being labeled by the school system. If parents are not sure what the school is doing, they should look at their children’s cumulative folders to determine what interpretations from what tests are recorded there.
As a general rule, IQ scores, arrived at by paper and pencil group tests, should not be in cumulative folders. Such a score is not a measure of a child’s native intelligence. At best, the test measures how well a child filled in the spaces on that particular test in relation to how other children filled in the spaces. A poor test score reported as a measure of innate intelligence can be very damaging to a child’s future learning especially since the score is not infallible. It can vary over subsequent testings, and is sensitive to a child’s behavior and feelings at the time of testing. Parents need to help schools stop perpetuating the myth that short answer, fill in the blank or mark the right space tests tell what children can accomplish. Given the right program and encouragement, the sky is the limit. All of our children deserve a chance to reach that limit or beyond.