Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Staying Creative

Christmas in Harlem (M.A. Reilly, 2011)

I found this video referenced on Red Bubble's blog. I  especially like 29.

The image that tops this post is one that I made in December 2011 after spending an afternoon looking at some of Romare Bearden's collages.  I had taken a break from my daily work (Suggestion #7 in video below) and met a friend, Jane, in Harlem.  On my way to the NY public library (Schomburg Center @135th Street) where Bearden's work was being displayed, I captured the image of the the woman in the foreground of the collage I would later make.  Her coat color and jaunty hat caught my eye.

Staying creative is largely a matter of habit, breaking habit, and remaining open to possibility.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Let's Stop (re)Inventing The Committee of Ten: Getting Over School

Committee of Ten History & Government Subcommittee from here.

1. A Story, A Story

What if we have it mostly wrong? 
What if our assumption that school grades and state tests are apt indicators of academic success?  
What if our assumptions that learning discrete subjects as the means for becoming 'college and career ready' are too narrow or misinformed?
What if the goal of becoming 'college and career ready' is narrow, naive, or perhaps inappropriate?

I think about these questions each and every time I read a narrative by someone who 'failed' at school and is now successfully writing for a living.  I wonder about the dissonance between school failure and being a writer.  In the Times there was an interesting essay, The Art of Distraction, by Hanif Kureishi who writes:
As a teenager, in particular, I wanted to be good at things, to shine, but like the Ritalin boy, I fell badly behind at school, finding myself not only unable to learn but at the bottom of my class. I walked out of secondary school, and a semi-skinhead violent street culture, with three “O” levels, feeling as if I’d been badly beaten for five years.
What does it mean to be at the bottom of a class? How is such a position even allowable, let alone the conditions that would give rise to exiting high school feeling as if you had been badly beaten?  What does it mean to succeed at high school?  'School success' as measured by GPAs has a lot to do with compliance: the dutiful student who completes the assignments on time (or ahead of schedule), regurgitates teachers' language for the Friday quizzes and tests, pays attention in class (or at least looks that way), keeps a 'good notebook' filled with the notes the teachers have given, scores well on State assessments, completes test prepping packages, and doesn't cause any trouble or fall asleep in class.  One might argue given the current emphasis on accountability as measured by single tests, that a similar 'compliant' teacher may be more prized than one who 'causes trouble, agitates for a different system.'  Excellence may really be noting more than compliance.

2. Getting over Readiness

Art By James Yang
I have spent a fair amount of time in K-12 schools and recently I was walking through the hallways of a school I had not been to before.  In room after room the same two scenes were occurring: in some young people sat at single desks and whether they were in rows or small groups--they all were watching the front of the classroom where the teacher talked and talked.  In other rooms, young people sat at single desks and looked busy doing seat work while a teacher sat at his/her desk and did seat work of some sort too. Occasionally the monotony of the scene was broken with a student standing at the teacher's desk or a teacher standing at a student's desk.  In several rooms some students rested their heads on top of folded arms on their desks.  Almost always these were young people seated towards the back of the classroom and usually they were boys.

Room after room.
Floor after floor.
Nary a difference.

In recalling this school and others like it, I think about the irony of readiness, a pernicious concept, if ever there was.  How can we say to parents, "Based on our readiness tests, your child is not ready for school...." Ready for what?  To watch the adult? To fill in endless worksheets and work assignments? To be bored? To fall asleep day after day? To feel as if you had been badly beaten for five years?

3. The Committee of Ten Again, Again 

I know there are aspects of education we are doing wrong, even as I acknowledge that there are wonderful exceptions to the classrooms and school I described above. I have been in schools and classrooms where learning is vibrant, dynamic, thoughtful, edgy.  In conversations with many of these educators though they openly talk about the countless pressures they face to stop the excellence they do with students in order to attend to the given and sanctioned curriculum; the state test content; test prepping and other absurdities.  Excellence cannot be had outside of the now, the ever emerging present.  Excellence does not occur via a sealed past, an epic construct.  It emerges alongside people making and doing, failing and figuring out.  It is inherently idiosyncratic as it is communal.

The standardization of teaching, learning, and measuring that corporations, governments, some school and district leaders, as well as some parents seem to be embracing with increasing interest will only lessen student learning and interest in learning. It will confuse, not illuminate, what excellence looks and sounds like--as we will be in the business of producing a country of Harrison Bergeron's.

In Democracy and Education, John Dewey (1916) wrote:
Schools are, indeed, one important method of the transmission which forms the dispositions of the immature; but it is only one means, and, compared with other agencies, a relatively superficial means. (Kindle Locations 139-140). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.
55 years later in Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich (1971) stated:
Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting (p. 18).
In thinking about Dewey and Illich, I believe that the idea of a place called school as the single method for formal learning may well have outlived its usefulness. Since NCLB & reiteratied through RTTT, the standardization of schools, curriculum, teaching, and learning methods has alarmingly increased and now with the Common Core State Standards, the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing, and the standardization feels even more exponential. We are now faced with a product that will be the basis of measuring what constitutes privileged academic performance at most schools: a single set of standards, preferred instructional methods (close reading), learning materials, curriculum maps, professional learning modules, and continuous high stakes, national-state testing of children throughout their entire school careers. 

You only have to revisit the assumptions made by the Committee of Ten to understand that inclusiveness in groups who want to standardize, may not be in the best interest of learners or a democracy.

Found on Pearson Website here.
Achieve, Inc. photographs from their Facebook Page
I often wonder how different school might be had the NEA task force, Committee of Ten, (a group of 90 elite men) determined that observation, reasoning, and judgment could be cultivated through multiple methods and studies as opposed to tying each to a discrete subject. I often wonder how different their recommendations might have been had a few women, some newly arrived immigrants, some
people of color, some students,  and representatives who hailed from work other than teaching been part of the committee.  How might the recommendations have been different?  Replacing 90 elite men who served on the Committee of Ten in the 1890s with corporations in the 2010s who are informing the Common Core really isn't much of a change. I think here of Marx who wrote, "...one must become conscious of how an ideology reflects and distorts ... reality ... and what factors ... influence and sustain the false consciousness which it represents -- especially reified powers of domination."

If you take 90 men, hailing from elite schools (college presidents, headmasters, professors) and ask them to name what an excellent education contains--we should not be surprised that their answers (all were in agreement) will reflect their lives, their truths. Habermas told us that without a metalanguage to challenge the given assumption, power tends to  serve up itself as the model of excellence. Today it is Achieve, Inc., Pearson, McGraw Hill, ETS, state DOE, federal DOE who are the new Committee of Ten. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...

4. Alternatives
  • Imagine if 'school' was organized not solely by discrete subjects, but by people--local, indigenous to a common ground and connected across physical, social, economic, and political geographies. Decisions about learning are made in such places, at such locations. 
  • Imagine a curriculum based on rich conversations engendered within participatory cultures where connecting, collaborating, creating and contextualizing are norm.
  • Imagine if learning was understood as natural, human--that which happens all of the time. As such, learners are by nature and nurture, capable of learning. No one need 'get ready' for learning. Failure is natural and necessary and does not warrant front page reporting, retention.
  • Imagine if learning opportunities and occasions could be curated by learners (students and teachers) for themselves and other learners? That these processes were imbued with choice.
  • Imagine if curriculum was situated as complicated conversation that learners, mentors, teachers, and community members engaged in often, daily even.
  • Imagine if work and learning were not separated so rigidly and apprenticeship was an option for learners based on their interests, needs, economies, passions and communities.
  • Imagine if the learning occurring in passion affinity spaces, in local community-based locales were privileged. Imagine if we leaned in and began to name the thinking that was being done at such 'places' what new importance might emerge.
  • Imagine if readiness was retired. 
  • Imagine if we stopped emphasizing measurement by single high stakes test and end of course grades.
  • Imagine if we did not confuse the well made argument with truth.
  • Imagine if we shifted measurement from being a far-from-student task done by 'others' and instead rested it in the hands of learners as necessary and important learning tasks that a community supported.


Found: Images

Images I made from awhile ago.

January (Ringwood, NJ. 2008. M.A. Reilly)
Circa 1967 (2008, M.A. Reilly)

Curvature (Tuscany, 2009. M.A. Reilly)
Spring (Mountainville, NY, 2010. M.A. Reilly) 
Dublin Waking (Dublin, 2008, M.A. Reilly)
Pacific (La Jolla, CA, 2010, M.A. Reilly)
Repeating (South Dakota, 2010, M.A. Reilly)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Resources for Poetry Month


The Poem as Character Sketch
Books to Teach Writers Craft in Middle School
Pass the Poetry, Superman
Global Multicultural Poetry Texts (print & Non Print) for Grades 7-12
National Writing Project Poetry Resources
Scholastic's Site for Poetry
National Poetry Month from Poets.org
An Evening with Billy Collins (2007)
Slideshare: Art Conversations
Listening to Poets talk: Answering Back
Open to Interpretation: Water's Edge  This might serve as interesting model for teachers/students: a photograph  is used as a prompt for writing and then both are published.... This was a juried experience that led to this book for both artists and writers.
Bernadetter Mayer's List of journal Ideas

Curated Sites:

Scoop It: Adolescent Literacies
Scoop It: Poetry Resources
Scoop It: How to Write Poetry
Scoop It: Poetry Slam

100 + Children's Books Set in New York City

  1. Ackerman, Peter. (2010). The Lonely Phone Booth. Illustrated by Max Dalton. Boston, MA: David R. Godine.
  2. Adler, David. (2004). The Babe & I. Illustrated by Terry Widener. New York: HMH.
  3. Alko, Selina. (2012). B is for Brooklyn. New York: Henry Holt.
  4. Allen, Debbie. (2001). Brothers of the Knight. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. New York: Puffin.
  5. Barracca, Debra. (2000). The Adventures of Taxi Dog. Illustrated by Mark Buehner. New York: Penguin.
  6. Bartone, Elizabeth. (1997). Peppe the Lamplighter. Illustrated by Ted Lewin. New York: HarperCollins.
  7. Bootman, Colin. (2009). The Steel Pan Man of Harlem. Minneapols, MN: Carolrhoda Books.
  8. Boulter, Jacqui. (2012). Where Horses Fly. Illustrated by Sabrina Kuchta. Edgartown, MA: Vineyard Stories.
  9. from  Tito Puento, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo
  10. Brown, Marc. (2014). In New York. New York: Knopf.
  11. Brown, Monica. (2013). Tito Puento, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez. New York: Rayo.
  12. Brown, Peter. (2009). The Curious Garden. New York: Little, Brown.
  13. Burleigh, Robert. (2001). Lookin' for Bird in the Big City. Illustrated by Marek Los. San Diego, CA: Silver Whistle Books.
  14. Campbell, Bebe Moore. (2006).  Stompin' at the Savoy. Illustrated by Richard Yarde. New York: Philomel.
  15. from Uptown
  16. Caraballo, Samuel. (2008). Estellita e la ciudad grande/Estellita in the Big City. Illustrated by Pablo Torrecilla. Houston TX: Pinata Books.
  17. Collier, Bryan. (2004). Uptown. New York: Square Fish.
  18. Colon, Edie. (2011). Good-bye Havana! Hola New York. Illustrated by Raúl Colón. New York: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.
  19. Cooney, Barbara. (1999). Eleanor. New York: Puffin. 
  20. Dorros, Arthur. (1997).  Abuela. New York: Puffin.
  21. Dugan, Joanne. (2005). ABC NYC: A Book About Seeing New York City. New York: Henry Abrams.
  22. Dugan, Joanne. (2007). 123 NYC: A Counting Book of New York City. New York: Henry Abrams.
  23. Egan, Tim. (2007). Dodsworth in New YorkNew York: HMH Books.
  24. from The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.
  25. Falconer, Ian. (2009). OliviaNew York: Simon & Schuster.
  26. Frossard, Clarie. (2010). Emma's Journey. Art by Etienne Frossard. Brooklyn: Enchanted Lion Books.
  27. Gerstein, Mordicai. (2007). The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. New York: Square Fish.
  28. from Henry & The Kite Dragon
  29. Glaser, Linda. (2010). Emma's Poem. Illustrated by Claire A. Nivola. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
  30. González, Lucía. (2008). The Storyteller's Candle/La verlita de los cuentos. Illustrated by Lulu Delacre. New York: Lee & Low Books.
  31. Godwin, Laura. (2002). Central Park Serenade. Illustrated by Barry Root. New York: HarperCollins.
  32. Gutman, Anne. (2009). Lisa in New York. Illustrated by George Hallensleben. New York: Knopf.
  33. Hall, Bruce Edward. (2004). Henry & The Kite Dragon. Illustrated by William Low. New York: Philomel.
  34. Harris, Isobel. (2013). Little Boy Brown. Illustrated by Andre Francois. Brooklyn, NY: Enchanted Lion Book.
  35. Hartfield, Claire. (2002). Me and Uncle Romie: A Story Inspired by the Life and Art of Romare Bearden. Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue. New York: Dial.
  36. High, Linda Oatman. (2001). Under New YorkIllustrated by Robert Rayevsky. New York:  Holiday House.
  37. Hopkinson, Deborah. (2006). Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building. Illustrated by James E. Ransome. New York Schwartz & Wade.

  38. Hughes, Langston. (1995). The Block. Paintings by Romare Bearden. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  39. Hyde, Heidi Smith. (2010). Feivel's Flying Horses. Illustrated by Johanna Van Der Sterre. Minneapolis, MN: Kar-Ben Publishing.
  40. Jacobs, Paul Dubois & Swender, Jennifer. (2006). My Taxi RideIllustrated by Selina Alko. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith. 
  41. Jacobs, Paul DuBois. (2004). My Subway Ride. Illustrated by Selina Alko. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith. 
  42. Jakobsen, Kathy. (2003). My New York. New York: Little, Brown.
  43. from Next Stop Grand Central

  44. Kalman, Maira. (2001). Next Stop Grand Central. New York: Puffin.
  45. Kalman, Maira. (2005). Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of John J. Harvey. New York: Puffin.
  46. Kalman, Maira. (1990). Max Makes a Million. New York: Viking Juvenile.
  47. Keats, Ezra Jack. (1962). The Snowy Day. New York: Puffin.
  48. Khalsa, Dayal Kaur. (1995). How Pizza Came to Queens. New York: Clarkson Potter.
  49. Kirk, Connie Ann. (2013). Sky Dancers. Illustrated by Christy Hale. New York: Lee & Low Books.
  50. Lewin, Ted. (2007). At Gleason's Gym. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
  51. Ted Lewin's Big Jimmy's Kum Kau Chinese Take Out. 
  52. Lewin, Ted. Take Out. (2001). Big Jimmy's Kum Kau Chinese Take Out. New York: HarperCollins.
  53. Littlesugar, Amy. (1999). Tree of Hope. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. New York: Philomel.
  54. Low, William. (1997). Chinatown. New York: Henry Holt.
  55. Manning, Maurie. J. (2012). Laundry Day. New York: Clarion Books.
  56. Markle, Michelle. (2013). Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. New York: Balzer & Bray.
  57. Melmeed, Laura Krauss. (2005). New York, New York: The Big Apple from A to Z. Illustrated by Frané Lessac. New York: HarperCollins.
  58. from  Harlem
  59. Michelson, Richard. (2005). Happy Feet: The Savoy Ballroom Lindy Hoppers and Me. Illustrated by EB. Lewis. Orlando, FL: Harcourt.
  60. Myers, Walter Dean. (1997). Harlem. Illustrated y Christopher Myers. New York Scholastic.
  61. Niemann, Christoph. (2010). Subway. New York: Greenwillow.
  62. Norman, Lisette. (2006). My Feet are Laughing. Illustrated by Frank Morrison. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  63. from Visiting Langston
  64. Ochiltree, Dianee. (2012). Molly, by Golly! The Legend of Molly Wiliams, America's First Female Firefighter. Illustrated by Katleen Kemly.  Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek.
  65. Perdoma, Willie. (2002). Visiting Langston. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. New York: Henry Holt.
  66. Pinborough, Jan. (2013).  Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children. Illustrated by Debby Atwell. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers.
  67. Prince, April Jones. (2005). Twenty One Elephants and Still Standing. Illustrated by Francois Roca. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  68. Rael, Elsa Okon. (1997). When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. New York: Simon & Schuster. 
  69. Quilt from Tar Beach
  70. Rael, Elsa Okon. (1996). What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street. Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman. New York: Simon & Schuster. 
  71. Richardson, Justin & Peter Parnell. (2005). And Tango Makes Three. Illustrated by Henry Cole. New York: Simon & Schuster. 
  72. Ringgold, Faith. (1996). Tar Beach. New York: Firefly Books.
  73. Rocco, John. (2011). Blackout. New York: Disney-Hyperion.
  74. Rubbino, Salvatore. (2009). A Walk in New York. Candlewick.
  75. from  This is New York
  76. Sasek, Miroslav. (2003 ). This is New York. New York: Universe.
  77. Schroeder, Alan. (2009). In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage Illustrated by JaeMe Bereal. New York: Lee & Low Books.
  78. Schulman, Janet. (2008). Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City. Illustrated by Meilo So. New York: Knopf.
  79. Sendak, Maurice. (1970/2001). In the Night Kitchen. New York: Red Fox.
  80. Sis, Peter. (2000). Madlenka. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  81. Sis, Peter. (2002). Madlenka's Dog. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  82. Skewes, John.  (2010). Larry Gets Lost in New York City. Illustrated by Michael Mullin. Seattle, WA: Sasquatch Books.
  83. Smith, Charles R. (2002). Perfect Harmony A Musical Journey with the Boys Choir of Harlem. New York: Jump at the Sun.
  84. Stanbridge, Joanne. (2012). The Extraordinary Music of Mr. Ives: The True Story of an American Composer. New York: HMH Books.
  85. from The Extraordinary Music of Mr. Ives: The True Story of an American Composer
  86. Sweet, Melissa. (2011). Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade. New York: HMH Books.
  87. Swift, Hildegarde H.(2003). The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Illustrated by Lynd Ward. New York: HMH Books.
  88. Takabayashi, Mari. (2004). I Live in Brooklyn. New York: HMH Books.
  89. from Sweet Music in Harlem 
  90. Tan, Shaun. (2007). The Arrival.  New York: Arthur A. Levine Books.
  91. Taylor, Debbie. (2013). Sweet Music in Harlem. Illustrated by Frank Morrison. New York: Lee & Low Books.
  92. Teachers Writers Collaborative (Ed.) (2012). A Poem as Big As New York City: Little Kids Write About the Big Apple. Illustrated by Masha D'yans. New York: Universe.
  93. Thompson, Kay. (1969). Eloise. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  94. Tonatiuh, Duncan. (2010). Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin. New York: Henry N. Abrams.
  95. Uhlberg, Myron. (2010). Dad, Jackie, and Me. Illustrated by Colin Bootman. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers.
  96. Uhlberg, Myron. (2003). Flying Over Brooklyn. Illustrated by Gerald Fitzgerald.Atlanta, GA: Peachtree Publishers.
  97. Velesquez, Eric. (2004). Grandma's Records. New York: Walkers Children.
  98. Velesquez, Eric. (2013). Grandma's Gift. New York: Walkers Children.
  99. Vernock, Audrey. (2011). She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story. Illustrated by Don Tate. New York: Balzar & Bray. (Set in Philadelphia and NYC)
  100. from Grandma's Records
  101. Vila, Laura. (2008). Building Manhattan. New York: Viking Juvenile.
  102. Waber, Bernard. (1987). Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. New York: HMH Books.
  103. Waber, Bernard. (1975).  The House on East 88th Street. New York: HMH Books.
  104. Waldman, Neil. (2001). They Came from the Bronx: How the Buffalo Were Saved from Extinction. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press. 
  105. Ward, Lindsay. (2012). When Blue Met Egg. New York: Penguin. 
  106. Warhola, James. (2005). Uncle Andy's. New York: Puffin.
  107. Waters, Kate. (1991). Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan's Chinese New Year. Illustrated by Martha Cooper. New York: Scholastic.
  108. Watson, Renee. (2012). Harlem's Little Blackbird. Illustrated by Christian Robinson. New York: Random House.
  109. from  Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood
  110. Weatherford, Carole Boston. (2014). Sugar Hill: Harlem's Historic Neighborhood. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. New York: Albert Whitman & Company.
  111. Wiesner, David. (1999). Sector 7. New York: Clarion. (Begins @ Empire State Building)
  112. Williams, Mo. (2005). Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale. New York: Walker Books.
  113. Williams, Mo. (2007). Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identify. New York: Disney-Hyperion.
  114. Winter, Jeanette. (2007). The Tale of Pale Male: A True Story. Orlando, FL: Harcourt.
  115. Winter, Jeanette. (2007). Angelina's Island. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  116. Winter, Jeanette. (2004). September Roses. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
  117. Winter, Jonah. (2009). Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx/La juez que crecio en la Bronx. Illustrated by El Rodriguez. New York: Atheneum Books.
  118. from This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration
  119. Woodson, Jacqueline. (2013). This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration. Illustrated by James Ransome. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Spring (M.A. Reilly, 2010)


by Billy Collins
If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze
that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house
and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden sprouting tulips
seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking
a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,
releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage
so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting
into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

Friday, April 11, 2014

When Adults Test Young Children...Common Core Map for Primary Grade

Years ago when my son was a toddler, I was asked to review an online phonological awareness test for 4 year-olds that would have been used in a city as a screening instrument.  I was skeptical of such tests, especially when used with young children, but decided to take a look at the assessment and to do so with my son.

Seated on my lap in front of the computer we took the test together.  At one point in the test-- a letter identification task was introduced.  I knew that my son could identify all the letters and so I was really curious when he selected an incorrect letter choice. The task asked the child to identify a particular letter from a field of four letters.

"Why did you select the letter J?" I asked.
"The J was lonely.  He wanted to have a friend so I picked him. It's important to be nice," my son told me.

In the adult world that is attuned to testing and right answers, the test makers had not anticipated the child who might be more interested in the possibility of story than in correctness.  At three, my son had never taken any type of formal test.  He attended a play-based preschool and we did not have any type of formal tests at home.  The first time he ever saw a test was on that day while sitting on my lap.  For him, this was about play and making sense of the emerging story that the screens provided.  He was not schooled yet to seek the correct answer.  He had not been rewaded for such behavior. Rather, he was applying the lessons he had been learning at school and at home (be friendly, look out for others) to the tasks on the screen.  It seemed obvious to him that he could pick out the letter when asked.  So instead, he invented a new context--one in which he could apply the lesson he was more interested in thinking about, testing.

I am reminded of this story about testing and young children when I sat down to review this online primary test review.  The screen shot below is from the Common Core Map for Primary Grade (MPG). This MPG task reminded so much of the type of assessment that caused my son to select the "incorrect" answer for reasons that were more compelling than the test maker had intended.

Screen Shot from MPG
When I reviewed the online MPG assessment and I thought about the K-2 children I know well, I was surprised at how incredibly slow and mundane the test directions are and how frustrating the absence of being able to interrupt these long-winded and at times confusing directions might be.  For children who have been reared on iPads and their like, the wait time for each question to be asked and explained would likely prove a  frustration. I can imagine many children losing interest in the tasks by the forced slowness of the technology.

But beyond the technological and development issues, the concept of naming the right answer as a positive and singular outcome may not be the mindset of the 5 and under crowd.  Children may find other interests that are more compelling than the simple identification of the how many apples have been drawn on two images of plates, etc.  They may be telling themselves other stories as they make sense of what is before them on a screen.  Without asking, what caused you to do x, we may be drawing unreliable and inaccurate conclusions and sorting children into groups that in fact do not match their emerging needs and strengths.

It is not surprising then that NAEYC's  guidelines about curriculum for birth to 8 year olds states:

14. Curriculum values children’s constructive errors and does not prematurely limit exploration and experimentation for sake of ensuring “right” answers.

Multiple choice tests, by their design, limit exploration and experimentation for the sake of ensuring correct answers. It worries me to see the use of online multi choice tasks as a way to screen and diagnose literacy strengths and needs of primary grade children.