controversy over testing preschoolers

One of many things that made last year the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for me, so to speak, was the amount of testing I had to put my preschoolers through.

The district’s early childhood office had for a long time provided us with a portfolio to use three times a year to measure things like name writing, identification of letters, numbers, colors, and shapes, counting, patterning, pre-reading, behavior, social skills, etc.  This portfolio is based on a teacher-created document, and has been improved over the years with input from teachers.  I like the portfolio, and have no objections to using it.  It is useful; I use it to see what skills my students need more work on, and adjust my teaching accordingly.  My assistant teacher is in charge of administering it three times a year.

The district has provided us with Americorps volunteers to work on reading with our preschoolers.  That program does a lot of training, and they use something call the IGDIs (Individual Growth and Development Indicators) to measure letters, sounds, vocabulary, rhyming, and alliteration.  The IGDIs are great, and I’ve got no objection to them, but that adds another level of testing that the kids need to go through three times a year.  The Americorps person does them with each kid individually, pulling them into the hall.  (This is usually at the same time of year that my assistant is working with each child individually to do the portfolio testing, which leaves me alone in the room with the rest of the class.)

My school won a big early childhood literacy grant, that comes with the big bucks, and it’s great.  However, the grant means that all preK-3rd grade teachers in my school have to use something called the STEP assessments to measure literacy growth, and to inform teaching.  The STEP assessments are great, but they are insanely time-consuming, and need to be done four times a year.  The classroom teachers have to do these, so that leaves the class in the room with a sub, or just with the two assistants, while I’m in the hall for hour after hour after hour testing each child individually.

AND — oh yes, there is more — the foundation that gave us the grant hired an outside organization to measure the effectiveness of the grant, so those people come in twice a year to measure the kids as a way to see if the grant is working or not.

That makes four assessments that have to be done with each child individually, from two to four times a year.  I think this is INSANITY.  I fought long and loud against it last year, but was told that there is nothing that can be done about it; all of the testing is necessary and none of it can be dropped.

Washington DC public schools have proposed testing preschoolers, and using test results to compare schools, and they are getting some resistance.  Here’s the link.  What do YOU think about testing preschoolers?

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