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Kindergarten teacher details ‘lunacy’ of standardized tests for kids

Susan Notes:

I missed this important piece when it appeared. Nancy Creech reports on the 27,575 pieces of assessment data produced by her students she is required to record-- while they, being kindergartners, cry, get sick, draw on the test paper. Here's research that REALLY counts, showing how far out of bounds data lunacy has driven the U. S. Department of Education and the Michigan Department of Education. And, more than likely every other state department of education that is scrambling for federal and Gates Foundation money.

This is about much more than standardized testing. It strikes at the heart of what teachers do. I remember an excellent kindergarten teacher sending home weekly samples of children's work--so parents could celebrate that work with children. She compiled beautiful anthologies so families could celebrate together.

But now, Arne Duncan and Bill Gates want data. And more data. Some call it number crunching. I call it kid crunching--and teacher professionalism crunching.

This data bandwagon will soon get a whole lot worse. Where are the unions? Where are the professional organizations? Where are the child psychologists? Where are the teachers?

By Nancy Creech

Have you ever given young children a standardized test?

Kindergartners are 4 to 5 years old and this is what happens: Some of them cry. Some get stomach aches. Many of them, all of a sudden when instructions are being explained, have to go to the bathroom or get a tissue. Some draw all over the paper. They talk. They shout out answers, as they have been taught to care for one another and help one another.

Race to the Top put us on the data bandwagon and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has now called for more "formative assessments." Even though Michigan did not win Race to the Top money, we are nevertheless answering the call for data for data, data, and more data, for children in kindergarten.

I am spending so much time recording "formative" assessments that I don't have time to evaluate the meaningful assessments and plan for instruction, much less time to actually teach!

I now have to give a total of more than 27,000 check marks or grades for my class of 25 students per year. This is not counting the stars, stickers or smiley faces I put on their work each day.

Here are the assessments I am mandated by my district to administer (with check marks or grades in bold). Most of these take only a minute or two to administer, but they add up quickly.

The first is our Michigan Literacy Progress Profile (MLPP) assessed 4 times per year with the results written on a check sheet.

26 letters

26 sounds

28 letters (two forms of 'a' and 'g')

Concepts of print -- 22 questions

Rhyme supply and identification -- 16
118 check marks x 4 times per year = 472 x 25 children = 12,300

Scores from MLPP are placed on Data Director, a computer program to manage data for educators.

Total letters

Total sounds

Total concepts

Total rhyme

Total rhyme supply

5 x 25 kids = 125 marks x 4 times per year = 500

Number of boxes to be checked on report card.

150 x 25 = 3,750 marks x 3 times per year = 11,250

District Math 15 questions. Color in bubbles for 25 children = 375 x 3 times per year = 1,125

(There is no consistency in the administration of this test at all. Some teachers give it whole group, some small group, some individually. Children answer the same question different ways depending on the day.)

Put math scores in Data Director. These can be scanned in and we are expected to do this ourselves.

15 scores x 25 children x 3 times per year = 1,125

Writing-Data Director

4 point rubric + total + score = 6

6 marks x 25 = 150 marks 3 x per year = 450

6 scores on rubric sheet = 450

2 scores on paper x 25 children x 4 times per year = 100

Scores recorded in grade book x 3 times per year x 25 kids.








Counting to 100

Matches quantity to written number.

9 x 25 students = 225 x 3 times per year = 675

It is also expected that all kindergartners be given the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) as they begin to read. Sometimes determining the level at which to assess requires that 2 or 3 reading samples be attempted. A level is to be recorded as well as a fluency and comprehension rubric number. 25 x 3 = 75

Children's levels are also supposed to be recorded on the report card, adding 25 more marks. We are also supposed to analyze the DRAs to see if the children are using the syntactic, semantic, graphophonemic or pragmatic cueing systems.

Total Check marks or scores given per teacher in a class of 25 students equals = 27,575

This is not counting the time it takes to listen to each child retell a story three times a year, nor listen to them count to 100. It also doesn't include checking in and correcting homework.

This is how it works out. If, on average, I have the children 5 hours per day (on days we have a prep and lunch), times 180 days, we have the students 54,000 minutes per year. Recording more than 27,500 scores and checks in a year, we would be doing a check mark every two minutes of every hour of every day for district required assessments. When do we have time for a word of encouragement? When do we have time to give a sticker or a smiley face? When do we go to the bathroom? When do we teach?

Don't get me wrong. I have always believed that assessment was at the heart of good teaching. Harry Wong says, "If you are teaching children something they already know, you aren't teaching them anything."

My teaching has been grounded in the Teaching /Learning cycle. The teacher assesses what the child knows, evaluates that assessment, uses the evaluation to plan for instruction, teaches and then assesses what has been taught. The assessments that I have used in the past include children's writing, running records, miscue analysis, watching and listening to children and anecdotal note-taking.

But this standardized testing has nothing to do with learning. It is lunacy.

— Nancy Creech
Washington Post Answer Sheet


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