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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Teresa's picture
Montessori Public School Coordinator in Florida

As far as I know, we do not screen to determine who gets to have PK and who does not. It is done when the students begin school.

We screen for oral language skills, concepts of print, motor skills, etc. If a teacher is concerned that a student has special needs, they are referred for assessment through another organization.

Joyce M. Alfrey's picture

As a retired veteran in the field of teaching, I applaud your astute observations. The people who decide to test these children, have no experience with children, no imagination, no common sense, and very little intelligence. I never believed in stadardized tests. Some of my best students never did well on the tests. They grew up to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, scie ntists, secretaries, actors, housewives, etc. The tests proved little to predict what they would become or what they would contribute to society. How sad that these "unknown" people, make up tests that have no relationship to the real world, send them to publishers, and they both make lots of money, so that you can give them to little children to fail. What a terrible shame and disgrace to our country and our future. No wonder so many children hate school today.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Really? Can't testing wait? Sad.

I'm all for kindergarten being as creative and as fun as possible. This is one of my favorite articles: Kindergarten Is the Model for Lifelong Learning -- check it out and help spread the word :)

Michelle Kochen's picture
Michelle Kochen
Kindergarten Teacher from Baltimore, Md.

I agree that testing/screening a child when he/she enters pre-k is completely unnecessary. I think that the skills assessed on the screening tool and so much more about what a child knows and is interested in can be learned through observation in this child's natural environment. Testing a child on specific skills limits what we can learn about the whole child, and I feel that it is disrespectful to the child, because children are capable of so much more. As a society, we are so focused on and concerned with what a child "can't" do that we miss out on all of the amazing things he/she can.

Michelle Kochen's picture
Michelle Kochen
Kindergarten Teacher from Baltimore, Md.

I think that testing/screening a child when he/she enters Pre-K is completely unnecessary and demonstrates lack of confidence from the educators choosing to assess in this way. I believe that the same information being assessed and much more can be learned through informal observation in a child's natural environment. Through a standarized and unnecessary assessment/screening tool, we are limiting what can be learned about the whole child. I also feel that we are disrespecting children. I think that our society as a whole is too focused on what a child can't do, that we easily neglect and overlook all of the amazing things a child can.

Michelle Kochen's picture
Michelle Kochen
Kindergarten Teacher from Baltimore, Md.

Sorry, I didn't think my first post went through when they asked for my e-mail info., so I tried to type it out again and post. I then realized that I posted pretty much the same message twice, but I'm not sure how to delete one. Sorry. : )

AL's picture
primary school, K-2, special education teacher from Emerald Isle, NC

Assessments, to determine the presence of hearing or vision problems, are acceptable, but if students are being sorted into various pre-k classrooms because of various levels of "academic" ability something is really wrong. Our job as educators is to take children as they are and move them forward.
On another note: I fondly remember kindergarten as a fun experience, now the students have "text" books and workbook pages that include tests. The last two or three questions usually require the child to bubble-in the answer. This to me is shamefully prepping children for multiple-choice tests. When did life become four choices? I can't remember the last time I had to make a decision and was actually given four predetermined options. We need to teach children to think for themselves, not depend on someone else to give them four choices.

Sue Updike-Porter's picture

I spent my career watching preschool children in their classrooms and working with their teachers. I have yet to be convinced that any Pre-school screening provides any helpful information about a child that is not better provided in a carefully written narrative provided by a preschool teacher. If teachers are given an opportunity to create a narrative, based on their observations, and covering areas such as: What is the child interested in, drawn to? How does the child interact with other children? with adults in the classroom? What about the child's physical presence? etc. If we spent the funds we now use to schedule screenings ( and to purchase screening instruments) to provide teachers with time to prepare narrative reports to share with parents and the next year's teacher--and perhaps--even schedule meetings between preschool and kindergarten teachers so they can share observations and information we might find that we are providing much more support for children and their families. How many screening sessions provide parents with a chance to share how they see the child???

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

Sue, great thought. Imagine if we spent money on giving teachers time to reflect, write, think, and communicate with each other instead of wasting it on assessments and programs. Imagine.

V.Myers's picture

Three of my four children have now been screened prior to entering Kindergarden, by their intended teacher. The screening was done in the classroom where they would be taught, and was done somewhat informally. The intended purpose as stated to me, the parent, was multiple. First, they did intend to screen for kindergarden readiness, and had on rare occasions recommended that a parent refrain from enrolling their child that year. Second, they made recomendations as to how the parent migh prepare the child to make the transition into the school setting. Concepts, skills, games were suggested to aid the parent. Third, the teacher is able to screen for learning disabilities and help the parent navigate the resources they would need to help their child. Most importantly, (at least according to the impression I was given) is the chance for the teacher and student to get to know each other with some relaxed one on one time, playing learning games together.

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