Standardized tests don't tell the whole story. This author's viral tweet proves it.

What happens when you have a childhood dream to be a writer, but your test scores tell you it's not in the cards?

For Alexandra Penfold, she became a writer anyway — and a successful one at that. Penfold is a literary agent and the author of children's books like "All Are Welcome" and "We Are Brothers, We Are Friends."

In a viral tweet, Penfold shared an image of a self-evaluation she wrote in fourth grade. In scrawling cursive penmanship, it reads: "Writing. I love to write and I hope to become an athor [sic] someday."


Below that image, she shared a photo of her fourth-grade state writing assessment. It shows a score of 4 out of 8 and reads: "This student is minimally proficient in writing."

"This weekend I sorted through some papers my mom saved from my childhood," Penfold wrote. "The top one is my 4th grade self evaluation. The bottom, my 4th grade state test score."

Her final sentence makes an important point: "Random House published my 6th book last week. #MoreThanATest."

Standardized tests don't tell the whole story — and sometimes they tell an inaccurate one.

According to the Center for American Progress, which looked at 14 districts in seven states, some students in the U.S. take as many as 20 standardized tests each year with an average of 10 tests in third to eighth grade. While such assessments may be useful tools in some ways, far too much weight can be placed on them. Some very bright kids simply don't test well. Some skills develop later for some kids — without any effect on the quality of those skills in the long run.

Imagine if Penfold had taken her writing test score as some kind of gospel indicator of her ability. Far too many kids find themselves fretting over test scores, and far too many adults put too much stake in them.

Penfold's tweet reminds us that goals and hard work far outweigh measurable skill or talent.

If you are a parent or teacher of kids who worry about how they perform on standardized tests, show them Penfold's tweet. And then show them some of the responses to it as well. Kids need to hear stories of people who didn't do well on tests or who didn't appear to show great promise in a field they loved, but who ended up triumphing all the same.

For instance, this person who hadn't tested well and "was a clutz in the lab" and whose teacher tried to steer them away from science earned a doctorate in chemistry.

And this person who had tutors her whole life and whose principal told her mother she wouldn't go to college graduated from university with honors and become a published author. As she wrote, "You are the only person that's allowed to define you!"

A person's potential can't be measured in a test score.

A test is a limited method of measuring a limited set of criteria in a limited time period. Let's make sure kids understand that and teach them that what really counts is what they believe they can achieve and how hard they're willing to work. People like Alexandra Penfold prove it.

Most Shared
via bfmamatalk / facebook

Where did we go wrong as a society to make women feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public?

No one should feel they have the right to tell a woman when, where, and how she can breastfeed. The stigma should be placed on those who have the nerve to tell a woman feeding her child to "Cover up" or to ask "Where's your modesty?"

Breasts were made to feed babies. Yes, they also have a sexual function but anyone who has the maturity of a sixth grader knows the difference between a sexual act and feeding a child.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / JLo

The Me Too movement has shed light on just how many actresses have been placed in positions that make them feel uncomfortable. Abuse of power has been all too commonplace. Some actresses have been coerced into doing something that made them uncomfortable because they felt they couldn't say no to the director. And it's not always as flagrant as Louis C.K. masturbating in front of an up-and-coming comedian, or Harvey Weinstein forcing himself on actresses in hotel rooms.

But it's important to remember that you can always firmly put your foot down and say no. While speaking at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Actress Roundtable, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her experiences with a director who behaved inappropriately. Laura Dern, Awkwafina, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, and Renee Zellweger were also at the roundtable.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Life for a shelter dog, even if it's a comfortable shelter administered by the ASPCA with as many amenities as can be afforded, is still not the same as having the comfort and safety of a forever home. Professional violinist Martin Agee knows that and that's why he volunteers himself and his instrument to help.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

Believe
True
Macy's