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NCLB Outrages

Waltham educators not happy about new test for kindergartners

Ohanian Comment:The
state department of education cop out that "the
state was required to do this" sounds like the
21st century update on "the devil made me do
it." Or Pontius Pilate washing his hands. Educators must inform parents that such testing
is invalid and abusive. Then they must join
hands and refuse to administer these tests.
Professionals can do no less.

By Jeff Gilbride/Daily News staff

A recent statewide mandate to expand the
English proficiency exam to kindergartners has
many school officials up in arms.

MacArthur Elementary School Principal Anthony
Colannino said the Massachusetts English
Proficiency Assessment exam is too complicated
for young learners, "filling in bubbles much
too small for their tiny hands and not-yet-
coordinated fingers."

In the past, the test was only administered to
third- to 10th-graders whose first language is
not English and who are "unable to perform
ordinary classroom work in English," according
to the state Department of Elementary and
Secondary Education. This year the exam will be
given to students in kindergarten through
second grade.

"Now we're all the way down to 5- and 6-year-
olds taking a pencil and paper test," Colannino
said. "My students and others in Waltham and
across the state are being judged on reading
material above their grade level."

Colannino said students started taking the exam
March 2. He said during the school day 20
students are scheduled to take the test that
requires a maximum of 45 minutes to complete.
Testing runs through the end of this week.

J.C. Considine of the state Department of
Elementary and Secondary Education said the
state was required to expand the test.

"No Child Left Behind requires states to assess
all (limited English proficient) students (from
kindergarten through 12th grade) in reading,
writing, speaking, and listening," he said.

Considine explained that the state developed
and this year will administer new reading and
writing tests for students in kindergarten
through second grade.

The exam consists of two assessments - reading
and writing and oral skills - to measure the
performance of the students and the progress
they make towards English proficiency. Only the
reading and writing portion has been expanded
to include kindergarten through second grade.

The tests include age-related questions that
students can answer through writing, speaking
or pointing. The physical gestures will be
transcribed by a test administrator into an
answer booklet.

"I'm uncomfortable with tests at that age,"
said Superintendent Peter Azar. "I think that
children at that age are far too young to be
tested in the way they are talking about."

In Waltham schools, English language learners
are expected to reach a number of state
academic standards, which include vocabulary,
social interaction and research. These
benchmarks change from grade to grade.

Northeast Elementary School Principal Nadene
Stein said ongoing literacy assessments, like
letter identification and rhyming tests given
by teachers at her school, are a far better way
to gauge learning.

"I'm not sure that the test is an accurate
assessment of reading and writing skills,
especially at the kindergarten level," she

All Waltham students labeled by the state as
limited English proficient must participate in
the test. Students do not face consequences if
they score poorly.

"My concern is for what were telling families
and children that are 5 years old what's
important about their education," Colannino
said. "Are we giving them a test that's
developmentally appropriate? And is it going to
give us assessment information we can use to
better instruct their English language
development? Right now, I don't have the
answers to the those questions."

— Jeff Gilbride
Daily News Tribune


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