By Letter to the Editor
Published October 13, 2003
Re: Who will close the achievement gap?
It is common knowledge among those interested in Florida's public school system that the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) has been (and still is in many circles) a highly controversial subject. Some have said that a student's FCAT score is only indicative of the financial well-being of his or her family, i.e., the lower the test score the worse off financially the student's family. This generalization well may be true. Nonetheless, the crux of the "problem" is far more basic, and Raspberry hit upon it when he says in this column, "Education cannot just be delivered - it has to be actively sought and received."
Few educators will deny privately that a student's test score is a function of his or her IQ, i.e., the ability to learn and understand coupled with his or her "desire" to learn and succeed.
IQ is an innate characteristic of an individual, and at the risk of being politically incorrect, all are not born equal. IQ is tangible. It can be measured quantitatively. IQ tests are universally accepted as a reliable means to measure learning capacity.
On the other hand, desire is not an inborn characteristic. It is a quality implanted into an individual, consciously or subconsciously, by others. Desire is a quality instilled by a parent, a sibling, a religious or political leader, the success (or failure) of a friend or a rival, a sports or entertainment figure, and/or a teacher. It is an intangible. It can be assessed subjectively, but not quantitatively.
At first blush, one might say those two factors of the equation (IQ and desire) carry equal weight in setting a student's test score. That, however, is not the case. IQ will set an upper limit to a student's scholastic achievements (and test score), but desire is the driving force in the process of learning and understanding. Therefore, desire has an exponential effect on a student's performance and test score: A small change makes a relatively large difference in the result. This mathematical relationship seems reasonable because, as Raspberry noted in his column, it is not uncommon for those of strong desire to outperform those of equal (or greater) mental capacity with lesser desire. In other words, a strong desire can make up for being "less than a genius."
Yes, Raspberry has it right when he implies that some students are being left behind because of the lack of desire, or as he put it, "the low-effort syndrome." It seems to this writer that America is "delivering" the opportunity for all to learn. It's now time for all to "actively seek and receive."