School tests- difficult child won't guess; only answers if he is certain

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Jules71, Apr 5, 2011.

  1. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    I am not even sure how to write this so it makes sense, but I am wondering if other parents have seen this with their kids.

    We recently had difficult child's 3 year re-evaluation at school. His IQ dropped 30 points. One of the comments the school psychologist made was that difficult child would not guess on answers he was not completely certain of. He would say "skip" or "I think I'll pass". At the time I didn't really think much about it.

    Recently we got his CogAT (Cognitive Abilities Test) results back. I noticed that he did not have a score in one of the two categories. I emailed the Learning Spec at the school and asked why that was. She said in her experience if the student skipped too many questions in a row or did not complete enough of the test - it would not be able to compute a score. She also told me in her experience in working with my difficult child, he does not do well with these types of tests. I am waiting for more clarification on that. (Not sure if it is because it is timed or because of format or other.)

    So I guess what I am wondering is - what is this? Could this be an anxiety thing about not wanting to pick the wrong answer or what? I have been talking with the school counselor and she says she sees some things that make her think he might be on the autism spectrum. He can never answer questions like what do you like better this or that, or what's your favorite x. He is very literal, black and white, does not understand different rules for different people or situations, etc.

    Do I even need to be concerned about this? I wonder if he does this on all tests.

  2. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    State testing starts in third grade here, so Duckie's teachers not only taught curriculum but also introduced the kids to test taking strategies. Being taught these skills may be an option (get it put into his IEP!). Otherwise, he'll need to be evaluated to see if this is a manifestation of his disability. Is it one style of question (multiple choice or fill in the blank), or about certain subject matter (math or grammar)? Do these questions he's missing follow a reading selection? Do they require work be shown? What I'm getting at is that it could be a test taling issue, a subject matter issue or a combination of both.
  3. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    I was wondering about the test skills, too. Some tests you're not knocked points off for a missing answer, just for wrong ones, and the teachers generally will tell them to skip answers they don't know.
  4. shellyd67

    shellyd67 Active Member

    Hi Jules, I have no experience with the particular testing your difficult child is taking, but know that my difficult child also has a hard time with testing. During our state testing last year he was in the middle of a medication switch and I was worried sick for 2wks (the school district puts soooooo much emphasis on these tests)

    Once I realized they have no bearing on difficult child's grades and are strictly for grants and government funding, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

    He managed do do quite well in spite of the medication change (?) He also takes things very literal and lately has been doing quite poorly.

    Last semester ended 2wks ago and he did fairly well, 1 A, 3 B's , and 1 C in Reading.

    in my humble opinion, your difficult child may have just been bored with the test and took the "whatever" attitude my difficult child tends to take. Or like you mentioned he may have had some anxiety over the stress of the situation.

    The worrying never ends .... Shelly
  5. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    Thanks tiredmommy. Those are good questions for me to ask about his test. We just did his new IEP and both his teacher and the sped teacher said they didn't feel he needed test taking accommodations so none were added. The comment from the learning spec about difficult child not doing well with these kinds of tests was new to me. Seems her input should have been given to the IEP team, and/or she should have been involved in his IEP.

    HaoZi - good points, thanks. I should ask if they are told to skip them if they do not know the answer or if they are told to give it their best try.

    Hi Shelly - you are right, the worrying never ends! I guess it would not surprise me if he just got bored and thought skip skip skip. Whatever the case, it seems like they should have contacted me about the lack of a score for that part, not me having to ask them what's up. I guess i just have to stay on top of them! :)

  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I just want to make it clear to you - his IQ has not dropped. What HAS dropped, is the ability of the test procedure to measure his IQ accurately. Even the first result may have been an under-estimate. This one obviously is.

    IQ does not drop unless there has been memory loss, brain damage or other insult to the brain. The tests, however, are often a clumsy interface between the world and the individual's capability. The more 'normal' a subject is, the more cooperative and capable, the more likely a result is to be accurate.

    Do NOT let them label him as "newly dumb". He is as smart as first measured, if not more so.

    The issue is one of compliance with the testing procedure, due to anxiety (I'm sure) as well as a need to be precise and correct (they are not the same thing but both together can be a big liability for an individual. Crippling.)

    What helped with difficult child 3, was teaching how to estimate mathematically. It was part of his curriculum anyway, so we had to do it for his Maths work. But it also taught him HOW to do a test, as well as it being OK to take an educated guess. Another point for him, especially with IQ testing, is sometimes the subconscious has the right answer and the chance of this is built in to the test scoring.

    Before we had unit pricing in our supermarkets, I used to use shopping trips to teach difficult child 3 to estimate. We only needed to estimate enough to get a comparison - is this tin of tuna more economical than that one? Or - roughly how much per slice is a loaf of bread costing? Would individual bread rolls be cheaper than two slices of bread? (yes, in our case).

    To be able to estimate, however, the child needs to be able to hold multiple data and ideas in his head at the same time. difficult child 1 couldn't do this. difficult child 3 can. So you may need to observe him closely as you do this with him.

    Something else that can help, is painting. Especially abstract. Get him to choose colours (use acrylics in tubes or pots) and to just daub colour onto paper. If he wants to draw outlines first, let him use pencil lightly. Play with water being dripped onto the painting, or salt sprinkled over it (it draws moisture up, causes interesting effects). Use various stamps (cut some some out of kitchen sponge), smudge with fingers. Or if not acrylics, use pastels. Smudge colours together. Spray fixative over the pastel creation when you're happy with it. You can always add more pastel over the top, but it won't smudge with the stuff already fixed.

    The aim of the abstract is to show him that creativity and randomness can be beautiful and has validity. Find what he likes - which is his preferred colour to look at, for example - and start there. For example, if his favourite colour is green, you can have a canvas that is mostly green, but a touch of cobalt of mauve can make the green look even better. Swirls can be more peaceful to look at than jagged lines, but it is choice. Put music on first, something he likes, and encourage him to move his body and arm in time to the music as he paints.

    This may seem a long way from what we're talking about, but it is actually an important step on the way towards accepting something not labelled precisely.

  7. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    I love it Marg! Thanks! Great ideas!

    I agree too, he is just as smart if not more so than he was when they first tested him. He was in the superior range for intelligence first and now average. They told me it was more likely that this recent test is more accurate. They explained that when he was first tested he was so far above his peers, but now they have caught up with him. Pfffff!

    I do notice though that he used to try - even if he didn't know the answer to something where now he just "passes", gives up, quits. I don't like that.
  8. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    You can't get a false high result with IQ tests. However, it is common for a test to be a bad measure and to give an underestimate. Both my boys 'failed' their first IQ tests, we were told difficult child 1 was "retarded" and difficult child 3 was "borderline" (borderline what? I asked, and they wouldn't explain - the R word was not mentioned). There were identifiable problems in administering both tests but they were scored as if there had not been a problem. An example - difficult child 3 was 4 years old and had poor hand skills with pencil (due to hypermobile joints). One test required him to solve mazes, which he was a prodigy at. But even though e could see his intent in drawing the path through the maze, because the maze was finely detailed, he could not draw a line without touching the side which was scored as if he had entirely crossed a line. For a 4 yo kid, I felt he should have been scored with more of an eye to the intent of where that pencil was trying to go.

    If he passed too easily on questions, then it was not an accurate test. Kids pass for all sorts of reasons and that needs to be considered in the report.

    One more shining example of why schools are really bad at this sort of thing. Also, if they re-identify him as not so bright, it takes away the need for them to give him the help he needs.

    There is a category called "gifted/learning disabled". Schools have a high failure rate in helping these kids. The schools need to be nagged heavily to follow through and a private assessment may be needed to help kick them in the tail.

  9. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Our district teaches test taking strategies as a matter of course, but it never did Miss KT any good, because she tuned it all out. She would get tired of taking the test about halfway through, and then color in the little bubbles to make a picture. One year she made a Christmas tree with the little bubbles. That was an interesting parent-teacher conference.

  10. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Eeyore also refused to respond to teachers unless he was 100% sure he knew the answer. Most memorably, at 5 in the Early Childhood Special Education classroom, he refused to respond to "what color is this?". The teacher has sent home a note asking us to take him to be tested for color-blindness because he just did not seem to be understanding that things have different, specific colors. Then one day he walked into class, took the teacher by the hand and dragged her over to the color board, pointed to every color and named it correctly. He just wasn't going to try and answer until he knew them all. He also had one high IQ result and several low-average/average results. The last standardized test results placed him in the 20%ile -- found out later that he just filled in the circles randomly as soon as he hit 1 problem in a section that he wasn't 100% sure of the answer.

    Similar problems with Piglet, husband just met with one of her coaches tonight. The coach said "Piglet always focuses on making the play the correct way. Sometimes she just needs to go for it instead of being so focused on doing it perfectly."

    I wouldn't worry too much about the false IQ score. I would try and get them to help him with test strategies. If he is willing to work for you, I would get a test prep book a grade level behind where he currently functions and have him practice.
  11. cassiemoun

    cassiemoun New Member

    My son also took 2 IQ tests and scored a whole 15 points higher on the second one. They were taken only 10 months apart and were 2 totally different IQ tests. I'm sure that his ADHD and difficulty with- visual discrimination made him inconsistent. (He wasn't on any medications with-the first test.)

    Thanks for that suggestion. It sounds fubn and easy to try. I hope my boys enjoy it! I'll let you know how it goes.
  12. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    Marg, Exactly! This is the feeling I have been getting from the school. If he does ok, they think they've been successful. I know he can do better than good - he can do great!
  13. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    Oh my gosh - a Christmas tree! How creative.
  14. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    Do you think these are Aspie characteristics? I can see my difficult child doing the same thing.