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Should Kindergartners Take High-Stakes Final Exams?

Should Kindergartners Take High-Stakes Final Exams?

Do you remember kindergarten? You probably got to have fun while learning some numbers and letters, maybe played a musical instrument, and spent time at work stations. You most likely looked forward to going to school every day.

Today’s five and six-year-olds have it different: they may be forced to sit for hours at a time doing academics, often with little or no recess, and in some places, no time for a snack.

Then there are the standardized tests:  yes, four, five and six-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 earlier this year in a Washington Post op-ed, which called for the ending of Common Core tests in grades K-2.

As if this were not bad enough, last summer we heard about a New York elemenatary school that canceled its May kindergarten play so that the students could focus on ” college and career work.” Yes, really.

Could life in kindergarten get any worse?

Sadly, yes.

Final Exams For Kindergartners

In 2011, the Florida Legislature approved a statute slated to go into effect during the new current school year, requiring that school districts develop and/or administer seven or more end-of-course assessments to all students — and did not exclude kindergarten. As a result, school districts have been developing final assessments for subjects including math, language arts, music, science and social studies to give to all students, including kindergartners.

And let’s not forget that in Florida, the results of end-of-course exams affect the evaluation and pay of teachers.

That’s right: final exams for kindergartners.

The state is requiring districts to develop tests for every subject taught in kindergarten.

As a reminder, a kindergarten ( which literally means a garden for children) was intended to be a preschool approach based around playing, singing, practical activities such as drawing, and social interaction as part of the transition from home to school: a nurturing environment where learning is fun.

Kindergarten: A Garden For Children

The first such institutions were created in the late eighteenth century in Germany to serve children both of whose parents worked out of the home. The name kindergarten was coined by Friedrich Fröbel, whose approach greatly influenced early-years education around the world.

Froebel’s concept did not involve high-stakes tests or final exams.

As parent Kathleen Oropeza puts it, “Turning a child into a test taking minion at the age of 6 or 7 is not good for a child.” Oropeza is the leader of the grassroots movement Fund Education Now, whose mission is to inspire and empower voters to advocate on behalf of Florida’s children and their right to a high-quality public education.

When news of the final exams for kindergartners became public in Florida, state Senator David Simmons tried to backtrack, saying that the legislature didn’t mean for kindergartners to have to take end-of-course exams and that he would work with colleagues to resolve the problem.

Simmons insisted that all the law requires is for a teacher to sit down with a kindergartener and ask about what he or she learned.

However, that is actually not what this Florida law states. On the contrary, the statute clearly states that the youngest school students in the state of Florida can expect to be repeatedly assessed.

What, you may ask, ever happened to encouraging the innate love of learning that children bring to kindergarten? What happened to Froebel’s vision of  the child’s “self-activity,” of a youngster being led by his own interests and given the opportunity to freely explore them, with the teacher acting as a guide?

The obsession with standardized tests in the United States is destroying the very foundations upon which education should be built.

What do you think? Should kindergartners be required to take final exams?

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Photo Credit: thinkstock

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11:18AM PDT on Sep 4, 2014

How 'bout basics ... not getting much, if anything, from home base these days, or confused by progressive teaching in the classroom, perhaps appreciation of nature (before it's all destroyed), socialization inclusion (kids are relatively unbiased at this age), difference between right and wrong -- and why (consequences), you know, just "things" needed for everyday living in the real world no matter minimum or maximum education level. What say you ...

11:02AM PDT on Sep 4, 2014

Hamburger M.: Obviously they DON'T.

5:52AM PDT on Sep 4, 2014

Don't these people have anything better to do than spoil kindergarten?

3:59AM PDT on Sep 4, 2014


12:26AM PDT on Sep 3, 2014

Thank you!

6:24PM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

No they should not

12:44PM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

no multiple choice, standardized tests for young children - I'd like to see mastery of basic reading by the beginning of third grade.

12:21PM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

As long as the kindergarteners don't know the stakes, AND they are not used to hold children back, I don't see anything wrong with age appropriate tests (oral evaluations for example rather than bubble tests). I know teachers hate the idea of test results linked to their own performance, but as a parent of a Kindergartener, I want to know that bad teachers are found out.

7:06AM PDT on Sep 2, 2014


4:17AM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

thank you for the great article

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