Monday, April 9, 2012
The testing obsession, and how it is destroying my Kindergarten child
This parent prefers to remain anonymous. But so many of us parents share her concerns about how the DOE’s obsession with testing threatens to undermine our children’s confidence and spirit.
My 5 year old boy attends kindergarten in a high performing school in a high performing district, and it is destroying him. He's such a happy child and in some ways, wise beyond his years. Applying basic skills, concepts and scientific discoveries to everyday life is easy for him and he can dissect numbers and do calculations in his head without hesitation.
Yet he comes home from school saying he's "stupid", a "loser" and is in " big trouble" because he can't read. This beautiful little boy struggles blending sounds to read words. He knows the letter sounds but reading the words is beyond his grasp right now. Read him a story, a long one with complex characters, and he will answer any question you have and he will tell you how something in his life relates to the story. He's a smart little boy who thinks he is stupid because his classmates know he cannot read and they tell him so. And he knows the pressure is on - he'll tell you he's a level "C" or a beginning level "D" but must be at least a beginning level "E" before first grade...his teacher told him so!
Maybe there are no high-stakes tests in kindergarten but there are "TASKS". Students are asked to read a nonfiction book (about trees) and write a book about the book in 25 minutes. Their written book was supposed to consist of a number of pages, with a sentence or two on each page about a picture that they drew. For the math task, they had to write and draw all the ways to form a number (8: 4+4, 5+3, 6+2 etc). And there was an observer in the classroom to make sure the tasks were administered correctly!
This absolutely wonderful, innocent little boy is being abused. Every day, when I pick him up at school, I have to pick up the pieces and make him whole. At parent-teacher conferences, no one ever said to me that he's young, he'll catch up. (BTW he was 11 weeks premature). Instead, I was just told to read more with him.
I know it's important to read, write and do math, but there is plenty of time for all that. Meanwhile, there are so many other skills that he needs, and so much else to explore and experience. He should be finger painting, playing in centers and navigating his way around the playground. I refuse to push him at home - he will be playing dinosaur hunter, building Lego cities and going to the park with me. My little boy is a precious gift from God - the DOE will not break his spirit!
I have heard that the DOE is commissioning new standardized tests beginning in preK, and I fear the obsession with testing our youngest children is just getting worse. When will it stop? And what can we do to protect our children from this sort of abuse?