You are So Much More Than Just a Score

This is a letter to every student who has taken a standardized test, from a teacher (and a mom), who wants you to know the truth.

Dear Students,

Much has been made about the state of our educational system these days…and the news hasn’t been good. We’re not keeping up with other countries. We’re lagging in our adoption of technology, and we haven’t mastered the math and science concepts necessary to win the nauseating, never-ending Race To Nowhere.

To solve this, policy-makers have decided that testing is necessary to monitor not only your progress, but that of your teachers and administrators, too.

They are partly right.

If you graduate from high school, and you’re not able to read, write, and understand math concepts capably, then we have utterly failed you. You deserve to go to school in a safe place where you can grow and learn. Schools need to be accountable, so that when you cross the stage in cap and gown, the diploma you grasp really, truly means something. It should be a symbol that you have met the standards set for you, and a testimony to the dedication of your teachers (and parents!) who guided you through the process.

So, kids…testing IS necessary. However, just like your grandma says, you CAN have too much of a good thing. We have descended to a place where testing is everything. And sadly, it seems we may be headed to an abyss where testing is the ONLY thing. Many of you are beginning to wonder if your test scores are the most important information about you. And,students, if you believe that, we’ve failed you again.

Who you are, and who you will become, cannot be captured in scaled scores or percentiles…


You are creative, and funny, and insightful.

You’re an actor. A lacrosse player. An artist. An entrepreneur.

When you’re faced with a tough assignment, you persist, even when it feels like you’ll never finish.

And when you saw the child  alone on the swings, you invited her to play foursquare with you and your friends. No one ever asked her to play before that moment. Did you know that?

A test can’t measure sensitivity.
Or determination
Or grace.

No test can quantify the richness of your soul or the lyrical melody of your contagious giggles. No standardized measure can predict your ability to find joy in the midst of pain, or your willingness to show love to those who seem unlovable.

And even though we’ve armed you with No. 2 pencils, and calculators and response books, the tools you’ll really need to succeed are within you…


So take heart, students…and take courage. You DO have what it takes. Sit up straight. Keep your eyes on your own paper. Do your best job. Check your work.
And then remember this most important truth:
You are so much more than just a score.


Summer Sampler: Great ideas for your family and your ministry!

Hi, all!
Just wanted to share some events, programs and services I’ve come across this summer…add them to your idea file and enjoy!

Summer is a great time to delve into a new book or two. When our kids were little we always joined the summer reading program at our local library. It was a fun place to visit when we needed a  break from the heat, and the kids always enjoyed the games and prizes as well as their books. Christ Community Chapel’s Hudson Campus is inviting the community into the church library for a similar program What a fabulous way to reach out and draw kids into some great reading that points them to Christ! Read more about it here.

Our friends at St. Gabriel’s Parish in Concord, OH. held a special “One Day Voyage” Vacation Bible School for the second year. This program allowed children with  disabilities who were not able to participate in the week-long program to enjoy learning about Jesus in an environment that is the “just-right-fit.” I’m a little biased about this, since it was the brainchild of my friend (and Key Ministry Board Member!) Amanda Mooney. Earlier this summer, Steve Grcevich interviewed Amanda on his blog…check it out here.

When we attended our daughter’s orientation at Calvin College, we learned about a program run by Student Academic Services. Calvin’s “Coaching Program” pairs students with trained study coaches (also students!). Together, they set goals for issues such as  time management, study skills, and test taking. What struck me about this program is that it is completely funded by a donor and the services are provided at no cost to the students. What a wonderful way to make an impact!

Finally, we attended a fabulous party at Fellowship Bible Church: The Luau. This event, led by the amazing Abby Hamilton, hosted over 60 adults with special needs. The evening included games, prizes, food, crafts and a whole lot of good fun! It was a wonderful way to serve as a family as well as meet some new friends.

Now…share your summer sampler with me! Leave a comment below to tell me about the programs and events that you’ve enjoyed…I can’t wait to learn from you!


Pick a Partner: Behind-the-scenes planning

Last week, we discussed why working in groups might be tricky–or even anxiety producing–for students with special needs. To make this type of activity easier, teachers can take several proactive steps.

Think it through. As the adage goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” The danger with this, for teachers, is that lack of planning on the teacher’s part can result in failure for the students. Therefore, teachers need to define objects for both the product and the process. For example:
By working in a small group, students will create a booklet that summarizes the story they have read (product)
As they work in groups, students will take turns sharing ideas without interrupting. (process)

By clearly defining the end-results for product and process, teachers provide structure and purpose.

Do a little choreography.  Just as a choreographer plans each move of a dance, teachers must plan for group work. Moving from individual or large group work to small group work takes tremendous energy and concentration for many students. While some students move easily to new activities, students with hidden disabilities may face several hurdles such as  following multi-step directions, difficulty moving through a crowd without bumping into others, anxiety at the change of activity. Therefore, it’s critically important for teachers to plan where groups will sit, how the students move through the room, and what directions will be given to minimize confusion.

For example:
“Pick up your pencil and markers. When you’re ready, look at me….Students in group A can now stand and walk to the story corner….(wait until group A is seated) Great! Group B students can stand and walk to the art table…”

Create Boundaries Group work allows students some freedom to explore ideas and collaborate. However, this freedom requires boundaries and structure to ensure student success! Teachers can set students up for success by providing parameters that help productivity. A checklist for the components of the project provides a visual reminder of the directions, and prompts students through the task. In addition, some students with hidden disabilities have a poor sense of time. Teachers can support task completion by providing prompts to move through the activity, such as a bell or chime. Visual timers can also help students manage their time.

With all of the planning necessary for group work, it may seem easier to plan a teacher-directed lesson! However, the opportunity for students to take charge of their learning–and learn from and with each other–makes this behind-the-scenes planning worth all the effort.

From behind the scenes…

Next: Teaching kids how to work together