Kindergarten Testing: The Realities and Dangers (page 2)

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Updated on Jan 5, 2011

Testing methods are another concern. Meisels explains that the tests are simplistic achievement tests of basic literacy and simple math, yet they aren’t truly representative of literacy or math skills. “They are just a few things that kids need to know,” Meisels says, “but it may be that some children have great strengths in other areas that aren’t tested at all.”

Another flaw to the approach is the effect tests can have on teachers and how this trickles down to students. According to Meisels, there is substantial evidence that teachers’ perceptions of young children can be influenced by test scores. If these test scores are not accurate depictions of what children can do, this can result in teachers having inappropriate negative impressions of the children, Meisels says. As might be expected, research also indicates that young children do not have the experience or built-in self-esteem to be able to withstand these negative perceptions over a period of time.

The Alliance report summarizes the position of the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI), stating that “standardized testing in the early years causes stress, does not provide useful information, leads to harmful tracking and labeling of children, causes teaching to the test, and fails to set conditions for cooperative learning and problem-solving.”

So if not standardized tests, then what--how should teachers evaluate students’ progress? According to the Alliance report, research has shown the best way to “test” children in the early grades is through performance assessments or observational assessments. With these assessments, teachers observe, record, and then evaluate students by comparing their observations to explicit, well-developed standards of performance across the entire curriculum. The key is that children are unaware they are being tested.

With the pervasive use of standardized testing and the overall emphasis on performance and knowledge gain in kindergarten, parents should keep in mind that they can be proactive about their children’s education. If an assessment or test of any kind indicates that a child needs help, parents should feel comfortable talking with the teacher about the accuracy and validity of the test. “Believe in your child. That’s first,” Meisels says. “Before I got too excited, I would try to get the teachers to explain more fully, to get more evaluation if necessary, and I would want to get another opinion.”

Meisels emphasizes that it’s more important to believe in our children than to believe in the tests. At the same time, he says, we should remember that the goal of both the parent and the teacher is to help the child. “I always try to counsel parents to work in a partnership with teachers,” Meisels says. “We’re all trying to help the child to have success in school.”

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