So during vacation it apparently came out that a new Obama edu-initiative appeared, called by some “Race to the Top for Tots.” You guessed it…we’re now going to be giving money to states who can show that it’s preschoolers are test ready for elementary school. Cooper Zale has a great reflection on this fact that ties in nicely to the research that I cited in my post here yesterday. The absurdity continues:
But my fear is that in our instructional obsession (including a focus on a drill and test approach to ensure that instruction “sticks” at least until after the test), state funded and regulated preschool programs will be pushed in the direction of teaching to the test, which I believe would do a great disservice to our kids’ healthy development. “Kindergarten readiness tests” are one thing if they are a low-stakes assessment for parents and other adults that work with the kid. They are quite another thing when they become a high-stakes assessment by the state of which preschool programs will receive or not receive funding.
If as I fear it becomes a high-stakes situation, adult preschool staff are highly likely to increase their efforts to direct children’s play more, while the study I cited above says that children’s development is generally facilitated by directing their play less. Even now, from my anecdotal experience, I’m concerned that many parents, childcare providers and teachers are way too directive when it comes to children’s skill development.
And it’s already happening. In this piece by Milwaukee kindergarten teacher Kelly McMahon in Rethinking Schools from a year ago (reg. req.), she recounts the number of tests that her 5-year-olds took in the 08-09 school year.
- Milwaukee Public Schools’ 5-Year-Old Kindergarten Assessment (completed three times a year)
- On the Mark Reading Verification Assessment (completed three times a year)
- A monthly writing prompt focused on different strands of the Six Traits of Writing
- 28 assessments measuring key early reading and spelling skills
- Chapter pre- and post-tests for all nine math chapters completed
- Three additional assessments for each math chapter completed
- A monthly math prompt
- Four Classroom Assessments Based on Standards (CABS) per social studies chapter (20 total)
- Four CABS assessments per science chapter (20 total)
- Four CABS assessments per health chapter (20 total)
It’s hard to come to any other conclusion that we have simply lost our collective minds when it comes to learning, and the worst part of it is, there is no leadership at the highest levels that a) has an understanding of the really powerful negative effects of standardization, and b) is willing to educate us and move us collectively in a different direction. In that vacuum, we have Bill Gates and Jeb Bush and other non-educators who can’t see learning as anything but a bunch of numbers and data that can be sold to vendors and, now, parents.
But here is the bigger problem, I think. An engaged citizenry would have picked up this fight by now. I’m constantly amazed at how few people I talk to outside of my network really don’t have any sense of what this system is doing to their kids, and, more importantly, the kids in inner cities who don’t have nearly the advantages and opportunities they do. The fact we haven’t mustered much of a collective fight speaks volumes about the negative effects of a system that now is going to dumb down our youngest learners even more.