As a former public school teacher, I am well aware of standardized testing. When I was an upper grade teacher, I did my best to make the school year fun and support my students during the test. When it was over, I breathed a sigh of relief and went on with the school year. Over the years, a bigger emphasis has been placed on standardized testing. New common core standards means new tests and higher stakes. The pressure to succeed has even trickled down into kindergarten. According to the nydailynews.com, due to more rigorous “curriculum and teacher evaluations, 4- and 5-year-olds are learning how to fill in bubbles on standardized math tests to show how much they know about numbers, shapes and order.” During a time where kids are just “learning the ropes,” will standardized testing in kindergarten take the love out of learning?
Judging Too Early
At the beginning of kindergarten, my daughter was given a “predictor” test. In other words, the school was predicting how she was going to do before she could do, well, anything. As a parent, I had been busy teaching my daughter to enjoy reading and love learning. Furthermore, I never focused on teaching my kids information to memorize. To give young children standardized tests and judge them on those tests is unfair. The school my daughter went to wanted to pull her out of class and drill her on phonics. I pictured her staring at a bunch of black and white letters all day and thought How boring! Now that she is going to a different school, she is already reading short readers and loving it. Using a standardized test to judge young children has its faults. For example, under stressful testing conditions, a child may become flustered. This may cause him or her to answer a question incorrectly even if they know the answer. On the other hand, a child may simply get lucky and choose the right answer.
The Joy of Learning
I have always thought that kindergarten is one of the hardest grades to teach. It’s the time when kids are learning how to read, write and add. Yet, having them experience failure on tests at such a young age is more likely to inhibit a child’s love of learning….especially for struggling students. The experience that a child has in kindergarten is a vital one. It can set the stage for a child’s enthusiasm towards school. If you like school, I believe you will learn more and stay in school. And, based on a study that followed over 12,000 children into adulthood, what we learn in kindergarten is important. According to the New York Times, “students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds. Students who learned more were also less likely to become single parents.” Furthermore, in adulthood they were more likely to earn more and save for retirement. Thus, this is why kindergartners should be learning to think rather than spending time bubbling in the right answer.
One Test for Different Kids
I would think that we should be careful about using one test to group children or label them as “low-achieving.” After all, kids develop at different speeds. If a four-year-old doesn’t know all of his or her letter sounds, this doesn’t mean they will not be a good reader later on. And, while teachers do need to assess their students at the beginning of the year, there are fun ways to “test” kids. For instance, to test patterning, a teacher could give a child some color tiles and ask them to make a repeating pattern.
Kindergarten used to be a time to explore, socialize and learn the basics. Bubbling in a bunch of circles is hardly a worthwhile experience. So, let’s stop the standardized testing and let kindergartners experience the joy of learning.
More from Melissa:
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