Are Standardized Tests Right For Kindergartners?
“They don’t know how to hold pencils,” said a Bronx kindergarten teacher whose class recently took the Pearson exam. “They don’t know letters, and you have answers that say A, B, C or D and you’re asking them to bubble in . . . They break down; they cry.”
Spring is typically standardized testing time in America’s public schools, requiring millions of students to spend days answering standardized questions in math and reading, social studies and science.
Yes, 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds in several states are being required to sit for extended periods of time and bubble in their answers to lengthy questions.
Taking multiple-choice tests based on scripted, highly academic curriculum is not only developmentally inappropriate for these very young children, it defies common sense. So argued Randi Weingarten and Nancy Carlsson-Paige in a recent Washington Post op-ed, which called for the ending of Common Core tests in grades K – 2.
“The standardized assessments being administered to first-graders and even kindergartners in New York and elsewhere have put this issue in sharp relief,” they wrote. ”What is being required of young children is unreasonable, inappropriate and developmentally unsound.”
Kindergartners Being Taught to the Test
Even worse, it appears that children as young as four are basically following a curriculum that teaches to the test.
Gary Rubinstein discusses his kindergarten daughter’s Common Core Math book:
Each page of the book features in large letters the words ‘TEST PREP’ so any administrator who claims that they don’t encourage test prep for kindergarteners is lying. Also notice that these kindergarteners are getting early practice in bubbling. The directions for this are “Trace the number. How many counters would you place in the five frame to show the number? Mark under your answer.”
As a teacher and parent, I find it tragic to see the education of young people limited to an academic curriculum. Children need free time to imagine, to explore and to learn. We need to allow our kids more time and opportunity to play.
Young children need to fully engage their senses and their bodies and indulge in hands-on experimentation. These are developmentally appropriate activities for young children, and yet they are being assessed by sitting them down with a No. 2 pencil and instructing them in the art of bubbling.
Instead, teachers need to be observing children throughout the year, correcting and analyzing their work, discussing their progress with other educators and also noting children’s behavior. In other words, use multiple measures at different times during the year to assess the youngsters.
Standardized Tests Aren‘t Good For Any Students
Wait a minute; these are exactly the arguments that educators have used in criticizing all standardized tests. They are only one kind of test, take place over just a few days and often have no relevance to what’s been going on in the classroom all year.
As students in Chicago declared last year, “Standardized Tests Don’t Work!”
However, this year, with the introduction of Common Core, there is rebellion breaking out across the country.
Educators are questioning the purpose of testing, lawmakers in several states are pushing back against federal regulations, and a momentous standoff looms between California, the state with the largest number of public school students, and the Obama administration.
The Standoff in California
California is refusing to follow the law that says every state must give annual tests in math and reading to every student in grades 3 through 8 and report those scores publicly. That’s because, like much of the country, it has adopted new Common Core national academic standards but the corresponding exams won’t be ready until next year.
There are many issues with Common Core, but this is one of the most problematic.
Many states are planning to dust off their old tests, makes some changes and hope for the best. But as Eric G. Luedtke, a Montgomery County teacher and state lawmaker, puts it, “That’s like teaching kids about Greece and Rome and then testing them on ancient Egypt.”
The bottom line is that standardized tests, especially taken as the sole measure of student progress, are wrong for all students, but absolutely egregious for kindergartners.
Let’s hope more parents will follow the lead of parents in New York’s Washington Heights, 80 percent of whom voted to opt out of the standardized testing.
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