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Fl’s new pre-k test set to debut amid some complaints

Added omen: Accompanying the original article are four ads for online universities.

Stephen Krashen's letter to Orlando Sentinel:

Pre-K testing is a step in the right direction ("Time for another test -- this one for 180,000 pre-K children," Sept. 3).

Required (not "voluntary") testing is what we need to toughen up pre-school, and make sure it includes a full dose of pre-phonics (phonemic awareness) and math. We should require all children to know the alphabet and be able to spell their names as a condition for entering kindergarten. And let's insist that parents properly prepare their children for pre-school.
There is no hope for the US is to compete internationally if we continue to treat 4 and 5 year olds like children.

Posted at Orlando Sentinel website:
Postal wonders whether I was mocking pre-K testing. Absolutely.

Postal explains that the kind of test used is low stress and is "meant to be viewed as a game." But the test, along with a post-test, will be part of the data used to measure the quality of preschools. In other words, there is quite a bit at stake on this test for teachers and administrators. The test will therefore increase pressure to cover and master certain content, which will result in a rigid curriculum and the direct teaching of the skills measured on the test.

This is contrary to everything we know about how children learn. There is excellent evidence that with sufficient exposure to print and hearing stories, children naturally acquire most of the competencies included on this test, as well as numerous competencies that are not on this kind of test.

Imposing pre and post testing on pre-K children is also part of a destructive movement to push the direct teaching of academics to younger and younger age groups: Kindergarten stopped being kindergarten years ago, and now they want to make pre-K academic. Whatâs next, academic standards and tests for toddlers to make sure they are ready for pre-K? Will parents to required to make sure their toddlers count their cheerios in the morning before eating them?

There is no evidence that this approach has ever helped children, no evidence that it helps children develop academic competencies any earlier or any better.

Recommended reading:
Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann and Libraries Unlimited (Second Edition)

Ohanian, S. 2002. What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten? McGraw-Hill

Krashen added comment:

We should also consider the time and money it takes to administer and score these tests.
Time: 180,000 children are to take the test, twice a year, pre and post. Assuming that the time taken from the child is one hour per year, this amounts of 180,000 hours, or a total of 20.5 years for all children combined. We can also look forward to "formative" standardized tests given during the year, to make sure children are on track in learning their skills.
Cost: Florida has not released any information that I could find on how much this test will cost. Costs include administration, scoring, dissemination and analysis of results. Even if the cost is relatively modest, it will bleed money from areas where it is needed more, especially services for children of poverty.

Protecting children from the effects of poverty (breakfast/lunch programs, basic medical care, access to books via improved school libraries) will increase school achievement, not just measure it.

Even if the test were a good idea, why test every child? If the test is only to see if children are making progress, it is more efficient to test a carefully selected sample and then generalize to the entire population.

by Leslie Postal

In case you missed it, here is our story from yesterday on a new test for pre-K students that youngsters in Florida's pre-K program will begin taking this month.

The new Voluntary Prekindergarten Assessment â required by the Florida Legislature â aims to judge students early literacy, language and math skills. The goal is to help teachers pinpoint who needs help with what skills. Eventually, the new test will factor into the formula that judges the quality of the stateâs preschools.

There is some disagreement about the new test, however, with complaints mostly coming from the private preschools and daycares that represent the bulk of providers in Floridaâs pre-K program.

But the whole concept of pre-K testing seemed to be mocked in this post by Stephen Krashen, an education professor emeritus at the University of Southern California.

Krashen wrote in response to our story, "There is no hope for the US is to compete internationally, if we continue to treat 4 and 5 year olds like children."

The test -- where students point to pictures and answer questions -- is meant to be viewed as a "game" by the youngsters who take it.

But early-childhood advocates say everyone must be careful that it doesn't become something stressful.

"We already have kids stressing out about FCAT, we donât need it when theyâre four," said Karen Willis, executive director of the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County.

The complaints raised by private preschool and daycare officials were that the new test: focuses on too narrow a skill set (it doesn't deal with youngstersâ emotional, physical, or social development, for example), doesn't come with the funding to correctly implement it, and will be given alongside a separate, new test for youngsters in the state's subsidized child-care program (and there is overlap between the two).

In an echo of the K-12 testing debate, some also argue Florida would be wiser to use a nationally normed pre-K asssessment rather than it's own, home-grown one.

"Florida citizens have the right to know how their upcoming workforce compares with young citizens in other states," wrote the Early Learning Advisory Council, which wanted Gov. Rick Scott to halt implementation of the new test.

But state officials say it makes sense to have a Florida test to use when gauging how well students are mastering Florida's pre-K standards.

"From our view, it's only fair to measure student performance on the content they're supposed to be experiencing in these programs," said Michelle Sizemore, a DOE official.

— Leslie Postal, with Stephen Krashen letter
Sentinel School Zone blog





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