Testing for Kindergarten? I Call BullSh*t.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yesterday, Professional Dawn opened her email and saw something which made her so angry that she sputtered and choked her way into the University where she is a PhD candidate, and then proceeded to sputter and choke about what she had seen in her email inbox to her PhD partner in angst.

What could have caused Professional Dawn this type of reaction?

An invitation to a chat with an "expert" in Kindergarten Testing.  An "expert" with no actual degrees or experience TEACHING children. An "expert" who has written a book and is trying to sell it to worried parents afraid their child is going to be left out of some thing that , if only they bought the book, would solve the problems of getting their child into that exclusive preschool, or Kindergarten. This will, of course, lead to your child being prettier and popular and eventually getting into Harvard with a full scholarship.

I call Bull Shit. Do you need me to CAPS that statement?


Professional Dawn has, of course, TAUGHT kindergarten. Professional Dawn has degrees in Education (Both Early AND Elementary) and Child Development and is in process of her very own PhD in said Educations. Professional Dawn is a Mom too.  A Mom with a child with a variety of diagnosed learning issues.  Professional Dawn is married to Professional Terrance , a man who did his PhD in Psychometrics. Do you know what that is?

Here, let me give you the Wikipedia fast and dirty definition:

Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and technique of educational and psychological measurement, which includes the measurement of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, and personality traits. The field is primarily concerned with the construction and validation of measurement instruments, such as questionnairestests, and personality assessments.

OH SNAP! We have a REAL education Expert AND an Expert in EDUCATION TESTING DESIGN in the same house!!! You can see why we may make a fearsome parental duo.

And do you know what we two experts KNOW about the designs of all of these tests?

They don't measure shit.  Not your child's intelligence or interests or ability to succeed in life. Not who you will marry or how happy you will be later in life. They are arbitrary tests which give institutions a Number in order to control the supply and demand of any given product, in this case, Education. 

Alfie Kohn calls it "a way to separate the wheat from the chaff children", and you know what that is veiled code for right? Rich and Poor. White and Non White. Haves and Have Nots. 

These books - these programs to "prep" your child for anything? Lies. They do nothing. 

Do you know what does help? Reading to your child. Talking to your child. Taking your child on walks around the neighborhood and discussing what you see. Listening to music with your child. Cooking with your child. Laughing with your child. 

I can tell you that the brain isn't fully developed until about age 21 when the pre-frontal cortex comes fully on-line. This is why teens have such crappy decision making skills, they are still growing the part of the brain that is needed to MAKE decisions. I can tell you that until age 7, the true Concept of Reading is not really accessible to most children. Sure, they can repeat words. They might even be able to sound out letters and sounds if you drill them enough....But the mystery of Decoding for information? Comes on-line about the time they move into the Piagetian "Concrete operational" stage.

I can tell you all sorts of things about children and learning and brain development. I can tell you that a healthy diet and protecting uninterrupted sleep  is as important for brain development as reading to your child. I can tell you it is the Quality of experiences and not the Quantity of experiences which shapes brains and intelligence. 

I can tell you that if Parents were to refuse to allow their children to participate in these tests that the Institutions would eventually stop demanding them - JUST like most schools no longer require GRE scores for Graduate schools. If you have no test scores to arbitrarily assign value to, then how are you going to Know a child as a learner? Maybe watch them? Get to Know them? Talk with them?  If you've got no test scores and no parents willing to comply with providing them, then your product (the school) becomes devalued. You are then forced to change your metric of admission. 

I can tell you that Anybody can slap "expert" next to their name and talk about things they have no right to be talking about as "experts". 

I can tell you that these books, these programs, do nothing but take your money and stress your children out. 
As Alfie Kohn says more eloquently:

"And once you realize that the tests are unreliable indicators of quality, then what possible reason would there be to subject kids – usually African American and Latino kids -- to those mind-numbing, spirit-killing, regimented instructional programs that were designed principally to raise test scores? If your only argument in favor of such a program is that it improves results on deeply flawed tests, you haven’t offered any real argument at all. Knock out the artificial supports propping up “Success for All,” “Open Court,” “Reading Mastery,” and other prefabricated exercises in drilling kids to produce right answers (often without any understanding), and these programs will then collapse of their own dead weight."

However, until PARENTS stand up and say "Absolutely Not, there is no basis or reasons for this" OR Schools come out and simply honestly say "We are trying to keep THOSE children out of this school, you know, the poor/black/stupid ones..."  this nonsensical hamster wheel of ridiculousness will continue. 

And it makes Professional Dawn crazy mad.

8 Baleful Regards:

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

Thank you for posting this. My kid is starting Kindergarten next fall - and with this in mind, I have something to discuss with his father now.

Dawn said...

Let me know if you need anything else Kelli- I have all the science too.

Em was once tested when she went into public school (1st grade). She refused to participate, leading us to get results that said our daughter was a barely sentient being and had no idea how a book worked.

We also opted her out of the testing that goes on here for high school entrance ( even for public High Schools). As I told her - No One can take a test in 5th/6th grade and have it predict anything about you as a high school student. We simply will not put her through that stress for nothing.

Leah said...

This is really interesting. Like Kelli, I have a daughter who is starting K next year and I am trying to navigate the Chicago Public School system. It's exhausting and confusing. I wish I could just hire Alfie Kohn. ;-)

Dawn said...

Now, let me be clear that Assessment is not the same as testing. I would expect a child to be assessed - through observations, maybe some game playing, seeing how they do in social situations. Assessments should be based on first hand knowledge of WATCHING the child in action.

Its not "Testing", however.

I liken it to something that a triage nurse might do - First impressions, base line history and documentation - so that you get a snapshot of a child in time. However, it does not count for more than just a rough outline of who the child is as learner AT THAT TIME. No more.

One of the questions Terrance and I use all the time is "What is the pedagogical REASON for this?" Meaning WHY are you doing this. Give me your basis for WHY this is best practice.

There is Absolutely, Unequivocally NO VALID REASON for a Kindergarten to be tested for entrance into a school.

Mitzi Green said...

as an expert in bullshit, i can affirm you called it correctly.

jwg said...

You rock! By the way, whatever happened to the rest of the manifesto? Although this is a pretty good chapter.

Amira said...

Wow, this is the first I've ever heard of kindergarten testing. Thank you for posting this; it's an insightful read, especially considering I have a 10 year sister already stressed out to her eyeballs about all of these entrance exams or whatever else in order to get into a middle school, and my own almost two year old who'll start school in the more or less near future.

Anonymous said...

As usual, you are inspiring and always eloquent.

May I share this on my Facebook page with all of my friends who are freaking about this and very similar issues?


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