Saturday, August 31, 2013

Why Admins Need To Rethink Testing 5-Year Olds in Week 1 of School

It pains me to think that in a few brief days, hundreds of five-year-olds will arrive at school and be subjected to tests. No settling in. No learning how to be a part of shiny new communities.  Rather, they will be meeting their teacher or some other adult in one-to-one situations in order for that adult to record how many letters and sounds and numbers each child can identify--as if these matters mattered more than becoming part of a class. The measures could easily and naturally be collected during the first two months of school through observations of children at play--through conversations with children as they handle books and make messages, sing and paint. Through conversation.

I asked one teacher recently why she would have to test all of the kindergarten children in her class beginning in week one and she explained that the new evaluation system of teachers required a baseline measure--one that needed to be done first thing.  Imagine a system to evaluate teachers trumping common sense.

Here are a few reasons why testing 5-year-olds in week one is counterproductive:

  1. Testing children in one-to-one situations prior to establishing classroom routines and procedures makes for a messy school year. The tone set during the opening weeks remains throughout the year.
  2. Learning time is wasted on testing.
  3. Teachers are likely to get false reads about what children new to school know as many children experience those beginning days with a certain amount of fear and anxiety.   
  4. The concept of 'test' may be foreign to children.
  5. There are natural and less intrusive ways to come to name what children know. Observation of children far surpasses assembly lines of kids being tested.

Administrators need to say no to such formal testing during the opening month of school. 

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