At least 25 states in the US now mandate at least one formal assessment during kindergarten, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
(Photograph by Leah-Anne Thompson.) Such a fact speaks directly to a growing (and for many, a troubling) trend of high-stakes early childhood testing taking root across the country.
Driven by corporate school reformers and incentived by Obama’s “Race to the Top” education policy, the drive to push standardized testing to the lowest grade levels is met with cheers by testing companies like ACT Inc., who stand to profit greatly from such measures.
Opponents, however, told Reuters that the trend was hugely troubling and that adults—especially ones who claim educational expertise—”should know better”.
Formal tests give a narrow picture of a child’s ability, said Samuel Meisels, president of the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in Chicago focused on child development. He urges teachers instead to assess young children by observing them over time, recording skills and deficits and comparing those to benchmarks.
But Meisels fears such observational tests won’t seem objective or precise enough in today’s data-driven world; he says he too often sees them pushed aside in favor of more formal assessments.
“I am worried, yes,” he said. “We should know better.”
Kari Knutson, a veteran kindergarten teacher in Minnesota, has seen the shifting attitude toward testing play out in her classroom.
During her first two decades of teaching, Knutson rarely, if ever, gave formal tests; kindergarten was about learning through play, music, art and physical activity.
These days, though, her district mandates a long list of assessments.
Knutson started the year by quizzing each of her 23 students on the alphabet and phonics, through a 111-question oral exam. Last week, she brought the kids to the computer lab for another literacy test. Each kindergartener wore headphones and listened to questions while a menu of possible answers flashed on the screen. They were supposed to respond by clicking on the correct answer, though not all could maneuver the mouse and some gave up in frustration, Knutson said.
This week, it’s on to math – and a seven-page, pencil-and-paper test. “It’s supposed to show them what they’ll be learning in first grade,” Knutson said. “Like they really care.”
In her view, the kids are far too young to tackle formal exams, especially in their first weeks of what is for many their first school experience. “Half of them are crying because they miss mom and dad. When you tell them to line up, they don’t even know what a line is,” Knutson said.
Read the full story at Reuters