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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

The Dark Side of the Square

The Dark Side of the Square

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Now Playing>> Band: Pink Floyd Record: Dark Side of the Moon The curtain is up; it’s silent, and… “We’re testing Pre-K!?” (Scratch my head) What? I have my concerns, thoughts, even curiosity, when the first experience a Pre-K student has in a real school setting is the lovely experience of taking a test. I mean, no “What is your favorite color?” “What do you want to do when you grow up?” “What is your name?” Sorry, the editor is yelling at me because I used the wrong terminology. Hold on. Okay. I mean they are being screened, not tested. My fault. The kid walks into a huge library, scared to death, and what do we do? We screen them; put them through a sieve and see what stays and what swirls down the drain. Why? Because we can? Because we have to in order to get money from the state? To group them? What happens with the numbers? One scenario: Teachers analyze the data and go on to peg Joey as the kid who can’t build a wall with blocks. Then what? The kid practices at home (maybe) until he can make that darn wall. Then he starts to brag that he can make that wall better than Sally. Then what have we created? Damian Cooper, assessment guru, once said, “Human beings come into this world innately wired to learn. They (we) are not innately wired to compete in sports. And before you know it they are competing for numbers.” Is this why America can’t think critically? We want them to pass a test that is a one way street, painted one color with one very grumpy crossing guard. And now it’s beginning in Pre-K. There goes the neighborhood. I might be wrong or overreacting or just looking at the dark side of the moon, but what do you think? I’m sure there is good in this as well. Show me the sunny side.

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brian cleary's picture
brian cleary
Library/media specialist in Camas Washington

I think the idea of testing Pre K kids is extremely distasteful...
but there is a nation wide group,(they use my library every year) whose name i will have to come back to that does early testing for disablities, the earlier we can identify those kids the better of we, they are.
there is also those students that we know will benifet form another year at home before coming to the big, scary active, standards driven school. in many cases this prevents the retention of students later.
So, screening and ugly option but so is going into kindergarten blind.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

A little "light" there, Brian. Thanks for the post. Keep em' coming.


Jan Spohn's picture

it is indeed unfortunate when the first school encounter is testing. We really have all lost our way! Children have precious little childhood anymore! This is from a former preschool teacher - now reading specialist (over 20 years)... and now grandma.

clg's picture

Screening is early childhood is in place to identify children who might need early intervention. It is NOT in place to "weed out" anyone not ready for pre-k or kindergarten. I have screened many children myself and have never had a child exhibit more than a slight case of stranger anxiety, that usually goes away within the first few minutes. Good screenings are set up as a play experience. By not having these screenings in place, especially in low socio-economic areas, children might miss extremely important early intervention oppertunities that will do nothing but help them in the future. Not screenig children would be doing them a diservice.

Teresa's picture
Montessori Public School Coordinator in Florida

While I support the idea of screening (it seems that we really have ALWAYS done this with students at the beginning of the year) it was not necessarily a pull-out setting, not such a formal or serious process, but might have been done by the PK teacher in the classroom instead. Should we simply assume they all know NOTHING? Or perhaps we should assume that all children entering PK use the basic sight words on the Dolch list and have a vocabulary of at least 200 words?
We all know that children are like sponges and come to us ready to learn. Is it not our responsibility to determine what they already know so that we can provide instruction to help them continue in their individual learning process?

clg's picture

Some screenings are done by the pre-k teacher in classroom. Other screenings may be done in order to see which children need pre-k the most (when only so many slots are available). The screenings have very little to do with rote knowledge like letter naming. They test processing skills, fine and gross motor skills, verbal expression and developmental milestones.

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