Monday, October 03, 2011

Do kindergartners need to tested?

The front page of the Boston Globe on Sunday caught my eye with the headline "State aims to test kindergartners"
Paul Reville, the state’s education secretary, emphasized that the kindergarten readiness assessments, which are in the conceptual phase, “shouldn’t be mistaken for an early MCAS’’ and will not be used to determine who should enter kindergarten. 
“It will be a more subtle and nuanced approach to assessing students,’’ Reville said. “The goal is to get a better sense of how students are doing, particularly in literacy.’’ 
The assessments ‘shouldn’t be mistaken for an early MCAS.’ 
The labor-intensive data collection, however, could be a tough sell to local districts and teachers, especially as budget cuts have pushed up class sizes, said Jason Sachs, director of early childhood education for Boston public schools. Boston, he said, already uses 14 assessments in kindergarten.
There are already plenty of assessments available or being conducted. Let's focus on providing some time and resources to actually using those assessments to improve the educational experience for the kindergartners.

The article fortunately admits:
For generations, state education officials have known that it is critical for children to start kindergarten ready to learn, and they have been keenly aware of a wide skills gap among students on the first day, even without a testing system in place. 
The gap exists for a variety of reasons, such as uneven quality of preschool programs, the frequency of parents reading to their children at home, or simply because children by nature can grow and develop at widely different rates in the early years.
So even with generations of knowledge and experience, the State is pursuing this to obtain some Federal funding.
“Each type produces helpful data for teachers and policymakers,’’ Scott-Little said. “In an ideal world, if we had plenty of resources and teachers had time, a combination would provide the best picture of where children are.’’ 
Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing - a Jamaica Plain organization critical of standardized testing - said he is encouraged that the state is pursuing observation-based assessments for kindergartners. But he said he is concerned the state, because of shortages of money and time, could ultimately create a system , that collects data based on one observation instead of several over a period of time. 
“The results could likely be more damaging than helpful,’’ Neill said. “The public ought to pay very careful attention to this.’’
Yes, I agree. We all should pay attention to what testing or assessments are being looked at and why? We should also be looking to ensure that this doesn't become an unfunded mandate, meaning that the State says we must do this but does not provide the funding for the "labor intensive" activity.

Franklin's voters have consistently voted down operational overrides to properly fund the schools. The high school project will be coming up early next year. Will the Town Council also give us an option for another override? Who knows. You should ask questions of the potential Town Council candidates and of the School Committee candidates. The opportunity is now through Nov 8th to decide who we want to lead our discussion.

You can (and should) read the full article in the Boston Globe here (subscription registration may be required)

Note: yes, my disclosure statement includes the fact that my wife happens to be a kindergarten teacher here in the Franklin Schools. Some would dismiss these comments offhand just because of that connection. So be it. I choose to do this information sharing because the education that is available to our 6,000 students today is NOT what available to my daughters. Both of them have successfully graduated from FHS (2004 and 2006). Both have successfully graduated from college and both are gainfully employed today.

This was originally posted to Franklin Matters