Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

Testing Kindergartners and a Rise in Disabilities: Is There A Connection?

Ohanian Comment: Parents would do well to keep their kids out of these kindergartens. And now, the Feds are pushing to move this skills barrage into Pre-K.

By Nancy Bailey

Why are children, no matter rich or poor, showing up wit USA Today telling about the report in Pediatrics. Could it be because they are being pushed harder than ever before, with less, if any, recess or breaks? Perhaps they're tired of school, or all that Common Core stuff is boring to them. Maybe, someone should ask them! And how about testing?

How ironic. I no sooner finish reading the above article, and the next thing I notice is the State of Florida is going to test kindergartners with 7 out of 15 tests including P.E. The senator talking about this said something about how you don't care about children if you don't test them.

I believe in testing too, but a little goes a long way. And testing very young children is always questionable. Usually, the best testing involves nothing more that sitting back and watching.

Let me use Florida as an example, although every state is probably guilty of the same thing.

I discovered the "Florida Department of Education̢۪s Office of Early Learning Kindergarten Assessment's History and Legislative Authority." It struck me as interesting how kindergarten assessment has gotten increasingly more complex throughout the years. HERE

The following simple observation was administered by the child's teacher from 1997-1999:

1. The child's immunizations and other health requirements as necessary, including appropriate vision and hearing screening and examinations.
2. The child's physical development.
3. The child's compliance with rules, limitations, and routines.
4. The child's ability to perform tasks.
5. The child's interactions with adults.
6. The child's interactions with peers.
7. The child's ability to cope with challenges.
8. The child's self-help skills.
9. The child's ability to express his or her needs.
10. The child's problem solving skills.
12. The child's following of verbal directions.
13. The child's demonstration of curiosity, persistence, and exploratory behavior.
14. The child's interest in books and other printed materials.
15. The child's paying attention to stories.
16. The child̢۪s participation in art and music activities.
17. The child's ability to identify colors, geometric shapes, letters of the alphabet, numbers, and spatial and temporal relationships.

Notice how general this list is, and how it gives the teacher room to add what they want to the checklist. I think less specificity when it comes to analyzing children is probably better, because a teacher might spot something out of the ordinary not addressed on a more complex list. I also don't see anything wrong with this observation, especially if the teacher uses it discreetly. There's no paper and pencil testing, no bubbling-in answers. It is interesting too, that many of these behaviors would be best observed when a young child is playing, especially during recess.

But, despite this being a possibly decent assessment, Florida couldn't leave well enough alone. Instead it continued to increase testing as the years went by.

Finally, Floridians wound up with what takes place, according to this history, in Florida kindergartens today.

Now 5-year-olds are assessed with the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (FAIR), which is, in my opinion, not really fair at all. This is what it entails:

1. The Florida Learning Kindergarten Readiness System (FLKRS), which includes a subset of the Early Childhood Observation System (ECHOS). I think this is similar to the above observation checklist only more measurable, called benchmarks, and with two more items on the checklist. A child, is either Not Yet Demonstrating, Emerging Progressing, or Demonstrating. And if they somehow don̢۪t demonstrate 14 of the 19...well I'm not sure what happens...but I don't think it̢۪s good.

2. The Broad Screen and the Broad Diagnostic Inventory are two measures from FAIR. This replaced the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS).

a. The Broad Screen has a Letter Naming task and a Phonemic Awareness task. Based on how a child does with this, a percentage 1%-99% probability is determined to predict whether they will score, at or above grade level, at the 40th percentile, on the Stanford Early School Achievement Test (SESAT) as they "graduate" kindergarten. This looks to me to be a test to predict how a student will do on a future test.

b. The Broad Diagnostic Inventory is a Vocabulary task and Listening Comprehension task to address "emergent" readers. Percentiles and ranking take place with the Vocabulary task.

Some Florida parents might want to dispute this list, or they may know of other tests. I am going by what I located on the above noted history and also HERE.

Notice the heavy push towards reading. Remember, introduction to reading used to be in first grade. In Finland, the land school reformers love to praise but never emulate, they introduce children to formal reading when they are in 3rd grade. In 3rd grade our country calls children failures if they are not reading fluently.

Now, in addition to the above, the State of Florida is talking about testing and grading kindergartners in their subjects (I think I missed some) which include: art, intro to computers, dance, health, language arts, theater, mathematics, music, P.E., Science, and Social Studies. I am happy to hear these young children get art, dance, music, and theater, but I am perplexed on how these subjects will be graded objectively.

If this kind of over-testing, not to mention micro-managing of a 5-year-old̢۪s day, doesn't lead to ADHD and additional learning disabilities, you have some kind of Super Child!

Kindergarten isn't a time for heavy testing, or pushing children to learn beyond their development. Kindergarten is the "children's garden" not an industrialized workhouse.

I suggest the legislators in the State of Florida, and other states, read a little Charles Dickens. Kindergarteners will never be ready for the Global Economy (what reformers say they worry about) if they are nervous wrecks when they reach adulthood!

Oh. And if you still feel the need to grade children in the arts, ask their parents to do it. I bet every child will deservedly get an A!

— Nancy Bailey





This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.