Massachusetts will test kindergarteners

Massachusetts will assess kindergarteners to evalute their school readiness.

. . .  teachers would measure students’ early knowledge of literacy and math by carefully observing and questioning them during classroom activities, meticulously documenting their performance against a set of state standards, and including samples of their work. They will also take note of students’ social, cognitive, emotional, and physical development.

Education officials hope the information — how many kids can read? how many don’t know their ABCs? — will help the state “more effectively target money and create new programs for elementary schools with large numbers of students lagging in key skills,” reports the Boston Globe.  In addition, the data will be used to improve preschool programs.

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  1. This isn’t much different from what good Kindergarten teachers did years ago. They determined if children were ready to move on to first grade, or if they needed another year in K. Assessing children earlier will make it possible to identify those who will be ready if given some extra attention. If schools have stopped assessing children in this way, it’s because they have fallen victim to the “everybody passes” mentality. Interestingly, in Michigan (at least in some school districts), children are assssed at 4 years old; those who have late birthdays or are not as advanced for other reasons are enrolled when they turn 5 into a program called “Young 5′s, and expected to spend a second year in K before they move on to Grade 1. Of course, if they speed up during Young 5′s, they can skip K and go right to first grade. This new assessment program in Massachusetts sounds to me like a similar attempt to deal with the fact that 4 and 5 year olds, even 6 year olds, are just all over the map in terms of their development.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    This is a great idea, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Fifth graders should also be assessed to see if they are ready for middle school. And eighth graders should be assessed to see if they are ready for high school.

    Every high school teacher has horror stories of students who can hardly read or write or do arithmetic. But what may be worse are the middling stories–kids who kind of read and write and cipher but don’t really do it well enough to do high school work, and so fall behind and fail or graduate with a pity degree.

    • Actually, this is one of the worst ideas I’ve heard in a long line of horrible decisions by the bureaucrats running American Education.

      Children will learn far more and be better prepared for first grade and beyond, if we just put books in their hands and let them read. The only kids who lag in skills are those who don’t read, and the schools create the non-readers by putting them in remediation at the first sign of trouble.

      Read the work of Stephen Krashen, Donalyn Miller, Nancy Atwell and John Hattie, to name a few researchers, and you’ll quickly learn that reading and writing literacy comes from reading books, not from standardized tests.

      • Cranberry says:

        I agree with Mark.

        This is an unfunded mandate. What will the rest of the class do while the kindergarten teacher assesses John Doe’s literacy? And documents it?

        Half-day programs in Massachusetts must provide a minimum of 2.5 hours of instruction; full-day programs must provide a minimum of 5 hours of instruction. How long do you think it would take to …measure students’ early knowledge of literacy and math by carefully observing and questioning them during classroom activities, meticulously documenting their performance against a set of state standards, and including samples of their work. They will also take note of students’ social, cognitive, emotional, and physical development.?

        I’m thinking, per student, it will take at least 2.5 hours (at least). Never mind the cost of training teachers in the new system, teaching them all the codes, (“code 666: frequently bites classmates”) , and reworking the classroom curriculum and expectations to provide hours and hours of undirected activities for classmates. This is on top of the current paperwork required for IEPs. For some students, kindergarten is the first time adults decide that further tests might be needed for a particular child.

        The state might win $50 million, but it won’t be evenly distributed to the districts. The districts get to bear all the costs, which are significant.

        Note that our public kindergarten teachers were able to provide a sufficient description of our children’s social and academic skills in their report cards. They also had the leisure of, you know, teaching their students, rather than running around producing data for the state bean counters.

  3. nth graders should be assessed to see if they’re ready for (n+1)th grade

    that should be the natural step taken by any nth grade teacher.

    I can foresee an issue that low Kindergarten scores means extra dollars for 1st grade. the incentive will be to have low scores.

  4. tim-10-ber says:

    I agree with the comments…my question is if the kids are not ready will educators finally hold them back to give them the extra year to prepare for the next grade level? What alternatives are available…

    I help both of my kids back — not the schools but me, the parent.

    I do not believe holding a kid back and making sure they are ready for the next level hurts them. I believe it is the best thing anyone can do.

    So…educators, is the system in place to make this happen? It is the right thing to do for the student and the teacher that gets them in the next grade…

    Thoughts? How do we make this work?

  5. JADiggins says:

    I have three sons, none of home were ready to learn to read in kindergarten. Two of them were behind reading levels at the end of first grade and it took intensive phonics work by me at home (schools were whole language instruction at that time) to get them to grade level, with two great second grade teachers to get them where they needed to be at the end of second grade. Both are great readers now (middle and high school) and very strong students. Developmental students are different and I think Kindergarten curriculum is not designed with what we know about brain development and learning.