Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Let Them Eat Exams! (Tests, Not Toys For Toddlers)

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
New York and New Jersey are on an insane mission to give mandatory school-readiness tests to children as young as 4 years old. Why? To get some of Obama’s Race to the Top money. The tests would assess children's language, math, science and literacy skills, and their emotional and physical development, Lisa Fleisher reported in the Wall Street Journal.

The (il)logic of testing kids this young is to get a baseline of each student's skill level when he or she enters the school system, something that should be readily apparent to their kindergarten teachers within the first few weeks even without tests. Since the tests won’t be used for remediation or special education placement, why waste the money, time and children’s innocence?

In a typical week-kneed capitulation to the Ed Deformers, the president of the New York State United Teachers Union, Richard Iannuzzi, has come out in support the proposal as long as the state uses the results sparingly. What does the union have to gain from this stance? Nothing, of course, though Iannuzzi hopes his support will make the teachers seem “reasonable” and “supportive” of Ed Deform and that this, in turn, will get the Ed Deformers to back off and stop criticizing the unions. This tactic is bankrupt. If union leaders like Iannuzzi lack the balls to stand up to the Ed Deformers and criticize reforms that are detrimental to kids and teachers, they have no business representing teachers.

Even if the tests are not high stakes or high pressure, as advocates say, and even if they are used sparingly, as Iannuzzi hopes, they will still take away time and attention from actual teaching and learning. Any additional testing contributes to the delusion that tests are a panacea or solution to the achievement gap, distracting attention from more salient problems like poverty. Furthermore, despite the lack of evidence that the tests will provide meaningful or valid data, policy-makers intend to use the results to shape education policy.

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