Testing for Kindergarten? I call Bullsh*t

Friday, January 20, 2012

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.

Sept 2010

I am re-printing this because it still makes me crazy mad.  And, sadly, because I now have to talk about how I would teach potential teachers to cope with the outcomes measurements being shoved down their throats, ala Race to the Top. Outcomes measurements which I know, in my heart of hearts, is such bullshit that it makes me sputter and storm and want to throw my degrees in the trash, for all the good it has done.

I can not tell you how disheartened and just Sad it all makes me, these policies. How one of the critiques of me during interviews is my non participation in these things that I find so repugnant ( how to prepare teachers for these situations where they must meet "accountability" measurements)...and it isn't because I don't think teachers should be accountable. I do. But because I know what these tests and measurements will lead to, and it isn't better teaching, or better schools or better anything for the children who need it Most. It is more segregation of those we Choose and those we throw away.

As I read that well intentioned suggestion - that I become more familiar with "Standards" in the schools and address how I would teach undergrads these standards and assessments,  I saw all the money and time I have spent on a Master's degree and then a Doctoral degree as wasted. 

5 Baleful Regards:

Anonymous said...

I just told a friend the other day that all my son was learning from all the tests he has taken as a student- 3 this year already with 4 more to come before the end of the school year-is how to race through them so he has time to 'chill' with his friends til everyone else is done. He is a 9th grader. By the time he has to take the SAT/ACT to get into a college...he will be a master at filling in the circles and that is about it.

I am seriously considering calling his school and excusing him for all state/standardized tests.

Thanks, yet again, for sharing your wisdome.

Dawn said...

In truth, we must play the game to some levels - and SAT's ( as crappy and biased as they are) remain one of the Standards of getting into College.

With Em, we opted her out of the testing to get into High School - which was risky - but paid off ( in that she is in a very special school meant for children with specific LD's ) but she still has to take the Ministry of Ed exams ( coming in Feb)

Part of my job is to get her anxiety levels down about the tests, because regardless of how I feel about testing, I would be negligent if I didn't prepare her emotionally.

So it is a double edged blade. We have to play along to some degree, and then again, we don't.

It is all this "Data Driven" bullshit that makes me crazy. Data? These are children. Humans. They are more than Data.

Then again, I seem to be an unemployable Hippie.

jwg said...

Amen sister! Wish I could print this out for my students.

Anonymous said...

The elusive 'they' are data driven in an attempt to prove whether or not teachers are teaching and earning their pay checks-- right? The downtown decisions makers haven't been in a school with students for too long-- they have no idea what they want, how to get where they want to go and how it is impacting our children. And where I am from, the school board is worse.

Dawn- I want to work with and/or for you.... coming back to the states ever?

Dawn said...

I'm trying, sending out lots of CV's

I've been invited for a couple of campus interviews.

Where I seem to really "fall down" is in departments where the curriculum is geared towards a Pre-K through Grade 2-6 teaching certificate.

Since I don't embrace these "standards" with enthusiasm I don't win many friends among the others in the dept - most of whom are focused on the k-6 aspect of school.

In the last interview I was asked repeatedly how I would prepare students for the standards - and I was truthful - I would tell them that they are ridiculous and that they can/should assess children on the basis of Play and context.

I mean, I can't see training people for things I know are Not sound developmental practice.

A friend of mine ( long ago) once said ( and this was in reference to getting PreK children "ready" for school by exposing them to worksheets and seat work):

You don't prepare for a famine by starving yourself.

And this is how I see so many of these initiatives. Famine.

It is not that teachers should be allowed to run amok. Or students.

It isn't that research should not inform practice and pedagogy.

It is a basic - and fundamental - stance that children are not quantifiable to numbers. That, despite the ability to produce tidy numbers and charts, Test scores tell us very little about a child.

It makes a nice report, and you can easily say X percent.... but Humans are messy and complex - children even more so, because their brains are still Growing.

As I despaired for my ability to ever find a job last night ( after a suggestion by Terrance that I might have to learn how to pretend I supported this stuff), I realized that I can't teach in a place that wants me to deny Best Practice. It isn't ethical. It isn't how I have worked with children, ever.

◄Design by Pocket