Student Growth Not Based on Tests? Blasphemy! Or Genius…

In education, the one thing we know how to measure best is IQ. But what if doing well in school and in life depends on much more than learning quickly and easily?

Grit. Grit is what matters. According to Angela Lee Duckworth, grit is what makes kids do better and teachers stay longer. She states that it is “passion and perseverance for long-term goals” and “sticking with your future” that determines which students will make it and which students will struggle.

She used a psychological experiment also focusing on teachers. Those who focused on test scores and flooded their minds with “fail fail fail” had difficulty staying in the position. Makes sense.

She discusses the importance of the smarter kids not doing as well because of their lack of long-term goals and those with tough home lives doing better for that reason. One of her most important points was that students don’t understand that failure is a permanent consequenc and after listening to her TEDTalk, Angela Lee Duckworth: The key to success? Grit, I completely agree.

As an ESOL teacher, it is ridiculous to think that my students’ abilities are fixed on test scores, whether they came to the country as a Kindergartner or a month ago. I can tell you everything about my students with less than pleasing behavior that other teachers sent out of the room twice a day. I can tell you exactly what they’re good at, what they like to do, and what career field they’ll be great in, but next to their peers they are at the bottom.

It’s difficult to make others who don’t teach, or others who do teach and still don’t understand, that we cannot base our students on test scores. Most of my students failed every single test I gave them, but did they learn? Yes. One of my students involved in horrible activities outside of school now wants to be a social worker and go into the military. Another now know what it means to have kids at a young age and the struggles that will ensue.

It’s so easy to be one of those teachers who gets mad because their students failed but honestly, I’d rather focus on the positives. I’d rather teach them that it’s okay to fail, just not to make it a lifetime goal.

By getting students focused on their careers, their futures, and how to get there, we can make sure that they stay on track and how to jump the hurdles, however many there’ll be. We can teach them how to be “gritty” and focus on their futures, not failure.

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