"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, March 30, 2009

Where Will Be the 1st Class Action to Challenge the Testing Abuse of Children?

Which group of child psychologists or pediatricians will get the ACLU interested in pursuing the first class action against a district, a state, and the U. S. Government? The courts will have to deal with this--the legislators are owned by the testing industry, and the one who aren't are too much the coward to stand up against the madness.

From Emax Health:

Molly Holloway, a mother of twin kindergartners in Bowie, Maryland, can’t understand why her children must take standardized tests every month in math, reading, social studies, and science.

“One of the teachers has told me that the kindergarten curriculum is what used to be the first-grade curriculum,” Holloway wrote. “What evidence do we have that this pushing is beneficial? While some children can handle the pressure, others cannot. One of my daughters struggles to keep up and hates school.”[1]

A mother in Illinois writes, “In order to prepare kids ahead of time for the state tests, hard core curriculum must start in kindergarten. Our kids are not actually getting smarter. The scores are not increasing. And the rates of children with anxiety issues are increasing rapidly.”[2]

Recent studies in New York City and Los Angeles confirm what these and other parents have observed: standardized testing and test prep have become daily activities in many public kindergartens. Teachers say they are under pressure to get children ready for the third-grade tests. The 254 teachers surveyed in the studies said they spent an average of 20 to 30 minutes per day in test-related activity.

The findings are documented in a new report, Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School, released on March 20 by the nonprofit Alliance for Childhood (www.allianceforchildhood.org). The authors, Edward Miller and Joan Almon, say that kindergarten testing is “out of control.”

High-stakes testing and test preparation in kindergarten are proliferating, as schools increasingly are required to make decisions on promotion, retention, and placement in gifted programs or special education classes on the basis of test scores. In New York City, for example, kindergarten children take a standardized I.Q. test to determine whether they qualify for “gifted and talented” classes. The city is also implementing a plan to test kindergarten, first-, and second-grade children as part of schools’ performance evaluations. The test scores are used to assign letter grades, A to F, to all of the city’s public schools. The grades are then used to determine rewards and punishments, including cash bonuses for teachers and principals and whether principals will be fired and schools shut down.

“Rigid testing policies do not make sense in early childhood education,” states the Alliance for Childhood report. “Standardized testing of children under age eight, when used to make significant decisions about the child’s education, is in direct conflict with the professional standards of every educational testing organization.”

Young children are notoriously unreliable test takers. They can do well one day and poorly on the same test on another day.

“A major problem with kindergarten tests is that relatively few meet acceptable standards of reliability and validity,” says the National Association for the Education of Young Children. “The probability of a child being misplaced is fifty percent—the same odds as flipping a coin. … Flawed results lead to flawed decisions, wasted tax dollars, and misdiagnosed children.”

The National Association of School Psychologists agrees, saying that “evidence from research and practice in early childhood assessment indicates that issues of technical adequacy are more difficult to address with young children who have little test-taking experience, short attention spans, and whose development is rapid and variable.”

It’s not just parents who are up in arms over the tests for tots. Anthony Colannino, a Waltham, Massachusetts elementary school principal, is upset that his kindergartners are now required to take fill-in-the-right-bubble tests. “Now we’re all the way down to 5- and 6-year-olds taking a pencil and paper test,” he told his local newspaper. “My students and others across the state are being judged on reading material above their grade level.”[3]

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor early childhood education at Lesley University, said,
“The vast majority of kindergarten teachers now spend some time each day on testing and test preparation, an activity that would have been considered irrelevant and even harmful in the past.”

In Las Vegas, Nevada, kindergarten teachers report that last year they lost more than 30 days of school to mandatory assessments. They have organized to lobby the county school authorities to reduce the number of tests and “return to the implementation of developmentally appropriate standards.”[4]

And a kindergarten teacher in Zanesville, Ohio, wrote to her local paper, “All we are doing is stealing childhood from innocent children. Shame on our government for making us be thieves. Shame on them for not listening to what children really need.”[5]

Crisis in the Kindergarten calls for the use of observational and curriculum-embedded performance assessments in kindergarten instead of standardized tests. The argument that standardized testing takes less time and is therefore more efficient is called into question, argues the report, by the new data suggesting that teachers are now spending time each day prepping children for standardized tests.

The combination of unrealistic kindergarten standards and inappropriate testing results in two to three hours per day being devoted to teaching literacy and math in many of the kindergartens in the N.Y. and L.A. studies. As one Los Angeles teacher said, ““Our students spend most of the time trying to learn what they need in order to pass standardized testing. There is hardly enough time for activities like P.E, science, art, playtime.”

These practices may produce higher scores in first and second grade, but at what cost? Long-term studies suggest that the early gains fade away by fourth grade and that by age 10 children in play-based kindergartens excel over others in reading, math, social and emotional learning, creativity, oral expression, industriousness, and imagination, write the authors of the report.

The report makes the following recommendations to educators, policymakers, and parents for ending the inappropriate use of tests in kindergarten:

1. Use alternatives to standardized assessments in kindergarten, such as teacher observations and assessment of children’s work. Educate teachers in the use of these alternatives and in the risks and limitations of standardized testing of young children.

2. Do not make important decisions about young children, their teachers, or their schools based solely or primarily on standardized test scores.

[1] http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2009/03/extra_credit_dam...
[2] http://www.themotherhood.com/post.php?sid=339832
[3] http://www.dailynewstribune.com/news/x1537600536/Waltham-educators-not-h...
[4] http://uktlv.org/about.html
[5] http://www.journal-news.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/dayton/lakota...

4 comments:

  1. I am now studying to be an elementary teacher and observing classrooms and seeing the different ways different schools and teachers work has been very educational to me. I agree that early high-stake testing could harm a child. When a child first starts school they are scared out of their minds, even if they are excited to finally be able to go to school and if you start making them take tests instead of letting them learn with hands-on activities then they are going to begin to hate school quickly. For kindergarteners, first-graders, and second-graders learning needs to be especially fun for them so that they will continue to want to come to school. We need to make learning a positive thing instead of a nerve-racking experience.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous12:26 PM

    It is now obvious that an entire generation of youth is going to have to be sacrificed at the Corporate Altar in order to discredit Gates and his Corporate Army.

    These will be lives down the drain,
    by the millions.

    Perhaps some of those ruined lives will come back in mob form to even the score someday?

    It doesn't matter much to me, since I will have left this earth before this all comes to a head, in a few more decades.

    Clearly, the Corporations have us in their icy, iron grip, and it will take scores of years for America to break free again, if it ever does.

    Right now, Obama looks like a Corporatist.

    And THAT looks like the future.

    -nikto

    ReplyDelete
  3. Beverly Hines8:27 PM

    I think that Kindergarten testing is way out of control. Pre-K and Kindergarten should be more about learning how to be sociable and how to interact in the school setting. Learning can be incorporated into that so the students are learning as they are playing and exploring together. It is evident and research has shown that students need to learn social skills and how to interact with other students. Some children come from home with little or no exposure to other kids. Time should be given for them to adjust to the changes of having to share attention and objects as well as being away from their parents. Focusing on high stakes testing at such an early age is not in the best interst of the child.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I feel that testing at such a young age is completly ridiculous. The stress that is involved in testing is too overwhelming for a a Kindergartener or even first grade. School at that age should be a positive experience that makes the children want to come back each day.

    ReplyDelete