Magazine Home      I     Links      I     Contact Us

IQ Tests Can Be Wrong: The Story of
Gregory Ochoa

When Gregory Ochoa was a high school student in California, he and his classmates were given an IQ test. Gregory and the other students were told that the results would enable the school to place them in classes commensurate with their skills. It seemed like a fair thing to do; after all, they were all being given the same chance, the same test.

But, after looking at the questions, Gregory discovered that he just didn't understand many of the words, and he couldn't understand exactly what he was supposed to do. Spanish was the language spoken in his home, and his English skills were not quite equal to those of most of his classmates. Gregory, and a few others who were having the same trouble, pointed out their difficulty to the person who administered the test. They were told, “Do the best you can.”

A few weeks after taking the test, Gregory found himself in a “special” class. Most of the other students in the class also had Spanish surnames such as Martinez or Gonzales. Gregory didn't fully realize what had happened. He never understood the term “educable mentally retarded” which was written on the teacher's letterhead and on the bulletin board in the classroom. All Gregory knew was that the special class didn't do regular school work. Gregory's teacher was sort of a coach, and they played a lot of soccer. Any class member interested in intellectual pursuits, such as going to the school library, found that such activities were out of bounds.

Gregory soon dropped out of school. He drifted about and got into trouble. He was sent to a reform school where he received some remedial teaching. After school he joined the navy. He scored well on the navy tests. They never told him what his IQ was on retesting, but they seemed pleased that a retarded person could do so well. While in the navy, Gregory earned high school credits, which eventually enabled him to attend college as a student on probation. His first quarter in college he received all A's. His second quarter he again received all A's, but he was kept on probation. Gregory finally graduated from San Jose City College on the dean's list as an honor student — on probation! The college was apparently unable to think of him as no longer “mentally retarded.” By the age of forty, Gregory Ochoa was an assistant professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he taught classes in social casework.


  • Dworetzky, J. P., Introduction to Child Development (St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1981.

Home  A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z