Wednesday, September 4, 2013

O-M-Gosh!

I have been required to do lots of things over my career that did not feel developmentally appropriate, but this year may just take the cake.  In the name of accountability and performance pay the county is asking Kindergarten teachers to give pre-tests in Math, Language Arts and Science.  Each of these is basically a one-on-one test in my co-taught class of 35 children!  Then there is the group Art test and the group Music test (not sure about that one because it's not in the building yet).  All of these are baseline pre-tests to be repeated as post-tests at the end of the year.  In addition to the county requirements, the state requires two subtests of the FAIR and the ECHOS which make up the state's FLKRS - all one-on-one testing, due within the first 30 days of Kindergarten.  When I first heard all this during pre-planning, I thought maybe the county tests were extremely short screenings that could reasonably be accomplished in the first 10 days of the school year (the county has come off the 10 days because of the backlash!) but the tests are actually long and thorough. Although I haven't yet seen the information that we will be receiving, it looks like we will have an abundance of information in which to make decisions, but all of the assessment has left our students feeling very defeated - even though we have stressed that they are not suppose to know everything on the test until the end of the year. It's left the teachers pretty beat up too!

Besides, there simply being too many tests in these early days, I am concerned about the time that the students are missing in training rituals and routines.  As we move into the fourth week of school, I am worried about the amount of instructional time that is being lost.  Instead of spending time in the classroom with my co-teacher supporting her teaching or vice versa, one of us is teaching without support while the other tests.   I worry about the time the students are missing that I usually spend just smiling, sitting close, and making sure that each child feels safe and comfortable in our new environment.  Today a parent of a student who is still being peeled off his mom every morning told me that he said the days are just too long and it's so-o-o-o hard!  Kindergarten - so hard... I worry what they must be going home and telling their parents about the test, test, test environment. I am embarrassed to try to make a rational explanation to parents. I worry that I have seen more tears and anxiety stress in our little ones and less laughing than in previous years.  I worry that the stress and frustration that I feel is being passed on to my children.  I worry that we will not finish the pre-tests in time for the county's new first nine week tests in Language Art, Math and Science!  And I'm not usually a worrier...

Is this madness?  Is this really the face we want to portray to our children and their parents as they walk through our school doors for the first time?  I understand accountability as well as anyone. I understand the theory of paying for performance.  I have always been a diagnostic prescriptive teacher so I am thrilled with the amount of information we will have on each of our young charges so that we can assess strengths and weaknesses and measure gains, but at what cost does all this come?  I have to believe that the folks making the decisions have the BEST of intentions but have not considered the cumulative effect of so much testing on such young children.  Maybe it's just lots of different people looking through their own lenses at all the small pieces and no one really looking at the big picture.  Kindergartners really are different.  Would any early childhood specialist ever recommend this type of school beginning?  This really is madness! What ARE they thinking?

Update:  During the sixth week of school we received an e-mail from the Superintendent letting us know that our Kindergarten students would only be required to take the Math and Reading baseline pre- and post-assessments, and that all 3 additional tests (Reading, Math, Science)  which have been scheduled at the end of each nine weeks would be cancelled!  Did you hear that LOUD sigh of relief?  Of course, by the sixth week of school, most of the cancelled baseline  pre-assessments have already been completed and the damage is done.  However, maybe now we can finally get on with teaching...

2 comments:

Maria Mallon & Cheryl Dillard said...

I have truly felt sorry for these children - some of which do not even speak English - I'm sure they love school looking at us blankly as we ask them nonsensical questions. Today a child asked me "When is my test today?" Teachers have also been discouraged, overwhelmed and stressed out these past few weeks. We thought we went got our degrees in teaching NOT testing. I better look at it again to make sure I'm not mistaken. MM

David Conte said...

After watching my own first grader, who is usually laid back, stress out during the IOWA, my heart broke for him. He sat there pulling his hair on the sides of his head and then began to cry because he couldn't "read" all of the many words of this many page test. His teachers tried to tell him that it was ok and to just try his best, so he muddled his way through, but I won't lie....I actually thought about homeschooling him right at that moment so he wouldn't miss out on the joy of learning to love reading during his first few years of school. You know, these first few years that really lay the foundation for a life-long learner? Not a life-long test taker!