How Young Is Too Young for State Testing?
I say "yes" to more assessment for 5-year-olds crafted by an expert teacher who knows his or her students' needs, the community, and the specific culture and conditions of the school. I absolutely say "no" to standardized testing of young children.
Every day, I assess each of my students: Do they understand what I am teaching them? Can they apply these new skills or knowledge? If not, what am I going to do about it, immediately? To me the bigger fear is that others will want to determine how and what my assessments will look like. Most of my assessments are done through casual conversation and multiple observations—there is no way I could capture that in a checklist or one-size-fits-all spreadsheet.
Teachers should be loud-mouthed about the fact that we're already doing what needs to be done. That standardized testing will not improve the classroom and will, in fact, take away from the important and effective work that expert teachers are already doing. The public needs us to tell them that we're ahead of this idea, to show that we’ve already devised assessments that are more effective than standardized tests.
Maybe this is where a teacher-created assessment bank should come into play. If master teachers are already using assessment strategies that work, this could be a step toward ensuring uniformity across the country and eliminating that gap between the haves and have-nots. A good amount of research shows that younger students can make up the gap more quickly than the big kids. So if we can identify where the struggling students are, then it is more data that we can use to help solve the problem. I am deathly afraid of the day when my son enters kindergarten because there really is not a lot of data for these lower grades. Who really knows if the students are progressing?
Sean, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I know exactly how each of my 31 kindergartners are doing in every subject area. … I collect data every day in multiple ways and use the data to make decisions for instruction.
During our first visit to my daughter's kindergarten classroom, the teacher did some letter and number recognition activities with Rebecca, but the conversational part was much more interesting. In one activity, Rebecca was shown pictures of a horse, a pig, a duck, and a rabbit, and was asked, "Which one doesn't belong to the group?" The grown-up answer, of course, was "the duck."
The year after I moved to teaching another grade, kindergartners started doing math tests with bubbles. ... I think states need to take a step back and find ways to collect the same data that we're using to teach in our classrooms. I HOPE Massachusetts is on to something here, with portfolios to show growth and achievement. Yes, it will be more work for teachers and even more work for those trying to draw conclusions for the state but I think this will take a more accurate temperature of our students. I am very excited to see how this develops.
Assessment in early childhood is fairly unreliable, especially in the pre-reading years (0 - 7). Kids just don't think abstractly the way that independent assessment requires them to. ... The more we move towards performance based assessment for students and teachers, the closer we will get to the answers we want—but it can be time-consuming for the assessor.
Today, during our kindergarten Halloween party, I walked around the room, asking the students to count their M&Ms. The students didn't know it, but I was definitely assessing them, seeing who had mastered one-to-one counting and who needed more help (even when the counting objects were tasty!). My fear remains that there wouldn't be a checklist or assessment that would be open enough to let me assess them in this very unthreatening way—or that even a portfolio might not allow for this type of documentation or sample work. I'm hopeful ... but hesitant.