With permission from my sisters, I am posting their very thoughtful responses to my post Up Against the System, which is a revised version of a way-too-long email to said sisters. I asked to post their responses to me because my sisters are some of the most insightful and intelligent people I know. Not only that, they're both great writers with completely different personalities, outlooks, and writing styles. Their perspectives keep my own balanced.
I am the middle of three girls, each 5 years apart. This first response is from my older sister, whom we'll call A:
"The evaluation you describe is just plain bizarre. I think if they took a random sample of children and administered these "tests", almost the only ones who would "pass" would be kids who were developmentally delayed in a way that inclined them to passivity. It sounds like someone took bits and pieces of substantive research (like learning size relations is a useful step on the way to learning more abstract mathematical concepts) and utterly distorted them in the construction of a meaningless and misleading evaluation metric."
[A note from me on this point: I hadn't thought about what the purpose of each metric was. But if they were looking for a sense of abstract mathematical concepts, they could have either asked me, or learned through observation. Thanks to his day care, John knows what triangles and octagons are. On his own he has been able to apply this learning in abstract ways: he sees triangles all over the place, where I hadn't thought to look, and octagons too. This ability seems a much more direct way of indicating his grasp of abstract mathematical concepts.]
"If I were in your position, what would anger and upset me most would be the niggling fear that John's future experiences of education and evaluation will look just the same. I would fear that instead of having partners in helping him develop into his truest, best self, I would face years of struggling to counter the malign influence of the educational establishment. It won't be like that though. You will find schools and teachers you can believe in.
I just pity the children who get caught in some of these inane diagnostic holes, and whose parents don't trust their own judgment, or don't have a support network to help them keep perspective. It's not that there aren't many children (smart ones included) who might benefit from various kinds of special help, but there aren't enough smart people to develop, administer, and interpret the evaluations. I now know enough parents to have seen several examples of stupid quasi-diagnoses arrived at by stupid (ahem, not insightful with regard to a particular child) teachers or evaluators."